Burden of suspected epileptic seizures on emergency services: A population-based study

Eur J Neurol. 2023 Aug;30(8):2197-2205. doi: 10.1111/ene.15800. Epub 2023 Apr 7.


Background and purpose: Patients with acute epileptic seizures form a large patient group in emergency neurology. This study aims to determine the burden caused by suspected epileptic seizures at different steps in emergency care.

Methods: A retrospective, cross-sectional, population-based (>1,000,000 inhabitants), 4-year (2015-2018) study was conducted in an urban setting with a single dispatch centre, a university hospital-affiliated emergency medical service (EMS), and five emergency departments (EDs). The study covered all adult (≥16 years old) emergency neurology patients receiving medical attention due to suspected epileptic seizures from the EMS and EDs and during hospital admissions in the Helsinki metropolitan area.

Results: Epileptic seizures were suspected in 14,364 EMS calls, corresponding to 3.3% of all EMS calls during the study period. 9,112 (63.4%) cases were transported to hospital due to suspected epileptic seizures, and 3368 (23.4%) were discharged on the scene. 6969 individual patients had 11,493 seizure-related ED visits, accounting for 3.1% of neurology- and internal medicine-related ED visits and 4607 hospital admissions were needed with 3 days' median length of stay (IQR=4, Range 1-138). Male predominance was noticeable at all stages (EMS 64.7%, EDs 60.1%, hospital admissions 56.2%). The overall incidence was 333/100,000 inhabitants/year for seizure-related EMS calls, 266/100,000 inhabitants/year for ED visits and 107/100,000 inhabitants/year for hospital admissions. Total estimated costs were 6.8 million €/year, corresponding to 0.5% of all specialized healthcare costs in the study area.

Conclusions: Patients with suspected epileptic seizures cause a significant burden on the health care system. Present-day epidemiological data are paramount when planning resource allocation in emergency services.

Keywords: emergency department; emergency medical services; epilepsy; hospital emergency service; incidence; intensive care unit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Epilepsy* / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seizures / diagnosis
  • Seizures / epidemiology