Background: People with epilepsy are at increased risk for sudden death. The most prevalent cause of sudden death in the general population is sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) due to ventricular fibrillation (VF). SCA may contribute to the increased incidence of sudden death in people with epilepsy. We assessed whether the risk for SCA is increased in epilepsy by determining the risk for SCA among people with active epilepsy in a community-based study.
Methods and results: This investigation was part of the Amsterdam Resuscitation Studies (ARREST) in the Netherlands. It was designed to assess SCA risk in the general population. All SCA cases in the study area were identified and matched to controls (by age, sex, and SCA date). A diagnosis of active epilepsy was ascertained in all cases and controls. Relative risk for SCA was estimated by calculating the adjusted odds ratios using conditional logistic regression (adjustment was made for known risk factors for SCA). We identified 1019 cases of SCA with ECG-documented VF, and matched them to 2834 controls. There were 12 people with active epilepsy among cases and 12 among controls. Epilepsy was associated with a three-fold increased risk for SCA (adjusted OR 2.9 [95%CI 1.1-8.0.], p=0.034). The risk for SCA in epilepsy was particularly increased in young and females.
Conclusion: Epilepsy in the general population seems to be associated with an increased risk for SCA.