Introduction: Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is defined as the sudden, unexpected, witnessed or unwitnessed, non-traumatic, and non-drowning death of patients with epilepsy with or without evidence of a seizure, excluding documented status epilepticus, and in whom postmortem examinations do not reveal a toxicological or anatomic cause for death. In this study, data on patients who passed away under observation in the epilepsy clinic due to sudden, unexpected death have been compiled, and we also aim to emphasize the importance of SUDEP in Turkey.
Methods: This study was performed with a total of nine cases. Data were obtained from hospital records, information given by the families of patients, the database of the General Directorate for Civil Services of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Turkey, and from the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality Cemetery Information System. As the basis of classification and definition, the proposals suggested by Nashef et al., which were made to the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) in 2011, were taken into consideration.
Results: Eight of the patients were classified as probable SUDEP and one of them as possible SUDEP; the mean age at SUDEP was 33 years, and the average follow-up period was 19.7 years. In these cases, except for known risk factors (generalized tonic-clonic seizures, nocturnal seizures, severe epilepsy, more frequent seizures, younger age at the onset of epilepsy, unwitnessed seizures, polytherapy, and mental handicap), a different risk factor was not identified.
Conclusion: This study is the first case series on SUDEP in Turkey. Postmortem studies are the most important shortcoming of the study. However, the importance of the topic is highlighted by presenting the available data. SUDEP deserves more attention during the daily practice of neurologists, pediatric neurologists, forensic physicians, and family physicians. If death is sudden and unexpected in a patient with epilepsy, SUDEP should be considered, regardless of the clear causes of death.
Keywords: Epilepsy; antiepileptic drugs; sudden unexpected death in epilepsy.