Seizure Clusters, Seizure Severity Markers, and SUDEP Risk

Front Neurol. 2021 Feb 12;12:643916. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2021.643916. eCollection 2021.


Rationale: Seizure clusters may be related to Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). Two or more generalized convulsive seizures (GCS) were captured during video electroencephalography in 7/11 (64%) patients with monitored SUDEP in the MORTEMUS study. It follows that seizure clusters may be associated with epilepsy severity and possibly with SUDEP risk. We aimed to determine if electroclinical seizure features worsen from seizure to seizure within a cluster and possible associations between GCS clusters, markers of seizure severity, and SUDEP risk. Methods: Patients were consecutive, prospectively consented participants with drug-resistant epilepsy from a multi-center study. Seizure clusters were defined as two or more GCS in a 24-h period during the recording of prolonged video-electroencephalography in the Epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU). We measured heart rate variability (HRV), pulse oximetry, plethysmography, postictal generalized electroencephalographic suppression (PGES), and electroencephalography (EEG) recovery duration. A linear mixed effects model was used to study the difference between the first and subsequent seizures, with a level of significance set at p < 0.05. Results: We identified 112 GCS clusters in 105 patients with 285 seizures. GCS lasted on average 48.7 ± 19 s (mean 49, range 2-137). PGES emerged in 184 (64.6%) seizures and postconvulsive central apnea (PCCA) was present in 38 (13.3%) seizures. Changes in seizure features from seizure to seizure such as seizure and convulsive phase durations appeared random. In grouped analysis, some seizure features underwent significant deterioration, whereas others improved. Clonic phase and postconvulsive central apnea (PCCA) were significantly shorter in the fourth seizure compared to the first. By contrast, duration of decerebrate posturing and ictal central apnea were longer. Four SUDEP cases in the cluster cohort were reported on follow-up. Conclusion: Seizure clusters show variable changes from seizure to seizure. Although clusters may reflect epilepsy severity, they alone may be unrelated to SUDEP risk. We suggest a stochastic nature to SUDEP occurrence, where seizure clusters may be more likely to contribute to SUDEP if an underlying progressive tendency toward SUDEP has matured toward a critical SUDEP threshold.

Keywords: SUDEP; epilepsy; generalized convulsive seizure; seizure cluster; video-EEG (VEEG) monitoring.