From unwitnessed fatality to witnessed rescue: Nonpharmacologic interventions in sudden unexpected death in epilepsy

Fergus Rugg-Gunn, John Duncan, Helle Hjalgrim, Masud Seyal, Lisa Bateman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) risk reduction remains a critical aim in epilepsy care. To date, only aggressive medical and surgical efforts to control seizures have been demonstrated to be of benefit. Incomplete understanding of SUDEP mechanisms limits the development of more specific interventions. Periictal cardiorespiratory dysfunction is implicated in SUDEP; postictal electroencephalography (EEG) suppression, coma, and immobility may also play a role. Nocturnal supervision is protective against SUDEP, presumably by permitting intervention in the case of a life-threatening event. Resuscitative efforts were implemented promptly in near-SUDEP cases but delayed in SUDEP deaths in the Mortality in Epilepsy Monitoring Unit Study (MORTEMUS) study. Nursing interventions - including repositioning, oral suctioning, and oxygen administration - reduce seizure duration, respiratory dysfunction, and EEG suppression in the epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU), but have not been studied in outpatients. Cardiac pacemakers or cardioverter-defibrillator devices may be of benefit in a few select individuals. A role for implantable neurostimulators has not yet been established. Seizure detection devices, including those that monitor generalized tonic-clonic seizure-associated movements or cardiorespiratory parameters, may provide a means to permit timely periictal intervention. However, these and other devices, such as antisuffocation pillows, have not been adequately investigated with respect to SUDEP prevention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-34
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Periictal cardiorespiratory dysfunction
  • Prevention
  • Recovery position
  • Stimulation
  • Supervision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology


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