Pediatric Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy

Pediatr Neurol. 2016 Apr:57:7-16. doi: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2016.01.004. Epub 2016 Jan 7.


Background: Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder among children and adolescents that is associated with increased mortality for numerous reasons. Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy is a critically important entity for physicians who treat patients with epilepsy. Many pediatric neurologists are hesitant to discuss this condition with patients and families because of the lower risk in the pediatric age group.

Methods: We searched for studies published between January 2000 and June 2015 by means of a PubMed search and a cumulative review of reference lists of all relevant publications, using the keywords "sudden unexpected death in epilepsy patients," "pediatric SUDEP," "sudden unexpected death in epilepsy patients and children," "sudden unexpected death in children" and "sudden infant death syndrome."

Results: SUDEP is a rare condition in children. Its mechanism is poorly understood and may have a distinct pathogenesis from adult sudden unexpected death in epilepsy. Limited comfort, experience, and knowledge to provide appropriate education about sudden unexpected death in epilepsy leads to fewer physicians discussing this subject leading to less informed and less prepared patients and families.

Conclusion: We provide a detailed review of the literature on pediatric SUDEP, including the definition, classification, and proposed mechanisms of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy in children, as well as discuss the incidence in the pediatric population and risk factors in children, concluding with possible prevention strategies.

Keywords: children; epilepsy; sudden infant death syndrome; sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Bibliographic / statistics & numerical data
  • Death, Sudden / epidemiology*
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology*
  • Epilepsy / mortality*
  • Humans
  • Pediatrics*