Characteristics of people with epilepsy who attend emergency departments: prospective study of metropolitan hospital attendees

Epilepsia. 2012 Oct;53(10):1820-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2012.03586.x. Epub 2012 Jul 10.


Purpose: One fifth of people with established epilepsy attend hospital emergency departments (EDs) and one half are admitted each year. These ED visits are not necessarily required, and unplanned hospitalizations are costly. Reducing avoidable ED visits and admissions is a target in most health services. The development of interventions is, however, challenging. Policymakers lack information about users' characteristics, factors associated with ED use, as well as quality of care. This study provides this information.

Methods: We prospectively recruited patients attending three London EDs for seizures. They completed questionnaires on service use and psychosocial state.

Key findings: Eighty-five patients were recruited. The mean age was 41; 53% were male. The average number of ED attendances in the prior year (mean 3.2; median 2) exceeded that of other ED users and those with most chronic conditions. ED use was not homogenous, with some patients attending frequently. Compared to the wider epilepsy population, ED attendees experienced more seizures, anxiety, had lower knowledge of epilepsy and its management and greater perceived epilepsy-related stigma. In the previous 12 months, most patients' epilepsy outpatient care was consistent with standard criteria for quality. In descending order, lower knowledge, higher perceived stigma, poorer self-medication management, and seizure frequency were associated with more emergency visits.

Significance: People with epilepsy presenting to EDs reattend frequently. Interventions aiming at reduced ED use by this population should address lower knowledge, stigma, suboptimal self-management, and frequent seizures reported by patients.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antiemetics
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Epilepsy / complications
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Urban*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Self Report
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Antiemetics