Unmet needs in epileptic encephalopathy with spike-and-wave activation in sleep: A systematic review

Epilepsy Res. 2024 Jan:199:107278. doi: 10.1016/j.eplepsyres.2023.107278. Epub 2023 Dec 8.


Introduction: Developmental and/or epileptic encephalopathy with spike-and-wave activation in sleep (D/EE-SWAS), also referred to as electrical status epilepticus during sleep (ESES) or epileptic encephalopathy with continuous spike-and-wave during sleep (CSWS or EE-CSWS), is a spectrum of rare childhood epileptic encephalopathies that can lead to long-term cognitive impairment. Despite the importance of early diagnosis and intervention for D/EE-SWAS, there is a paucity of well-controlled clinical trial data to inform treatment, and no approved treatments are available. To assess correlations between diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes in D/EE-SWAS, we carried out a systematic review of the literature.

Methods: In August 2020, we conducted comprehensive database searches using search terms including "electrical status epilepticus," "ESES," "CSWS," and "Landau-Kleffner syndrome." Two or more independent reviewers screened titles, abstracts, and full-text articles for those that met the following criteria: prospective studies (randomized controlled trials [RCTs] or open-label trials), retrospective studies (drug evaluations or observational studies/chart reviews), and case series with ≥ 10 participants. Both interventional and non-interventional studies were included (i.e., drug intervention was not an inclusion criterion). Articles published before 2012, review articles, animal studies, and studies of surgical or dietary interventions were excluded. Standardized data extraction templates were used to capture data on study design, patient characteristics, interventions, and outcomes from each of the selected publications. Study quality was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool for RCTs and the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale (NOS) or the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) Critical Appraisal Checklist for retrospective, observational studies.

Results: A total of 34 studies were included for full data extraction, most of which were uncontrolled and observational. Interpretation of study outcomes was limited by small study populations, variability in inclusion criteria, and inconsistency in methods of assessment and reporting of outcomes, which resulted in large heterogeneity in patients and their presenting symptoms. Despite these limitations, some patterns could be discerned. Several studies found that longer duration of ESES and younger age at onset were correlated with more severe language and cognitive deficits. In addition, several studies reported an association between improvement in cognitive outcomes and reduction in electroencephalogram (EEG) abnormalities and/or seizure frequency. In the 16 prospective or retrospective studies that evaluated drug treatments (e.g., antiseizure medications, corticosteroids, and high-dose diazepam), there was some improvement in EEG, seizure, and/or cognitive outcomes, although the specific outcomes and rates of improvement reported varied from study to study.

Conclusion: Long-term cognitive deficits remain common in D/EE-SWAS, and data gaps exist in the literature that preclude an evidence-based approach to managing this complex epilepsy indication. Early intervention with more effective medications is needed to optimize long-term outcomes. Sufficiently powered, randomized, double-blind, controlled trials with standardized methods and predefined primary and secondary outcomes are needed.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cognition Disorders* / complications
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy, Generalized* / complications
  • Humans
  • Landau-Kleffner Syndrome* / complications
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Status Epilepticus* / drug therapy