Pulmonary edema following generalized tonic clonic seizures is directly associated with seizure duration

Jeffrey Kennedy, Kimberly A Hardin, Palak Parikh, Chin-Shang Li, Masud Seyal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Purpose Postictal pulmonary edema (PPE) is almost invariably present in human and animal cases of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) coming to autopsy. PPE may be a contributing factor in SUDEP. The incidence of postictal PPE is unknown. We retrospectively investigated PPE following generalized tonic clonic seizures (GTCS) in the epilepsy monitoring unit. Method Chest X-rays (CXR) following each GTCS were obtained in 24 consecutive patients. Relationship of CXR abnormality to seizure duration, ictal/postictal oxygen desaturation (SpO2), apnea and presence of postictal generalized EEG suppression (PGES) was investigated using logistic regression. Results Eleven of 24 patients had CXR abnormalities following a GTCS. In these 11 patients, 22 CXR were obtained and abnormalities were present in 15 CXR. Abnormalities included PPE in 7 patients, of which 2 also had focal infiltrates. In 4 patients focal infiltrates were present without PPE. There was no significant difference in mean time to CXR (225 min) following GTCS in the abnormal CXR group versus the normal group of patients (196 min). Mean preceding seizure duration was longer (p = 0.002) in GTCS with abnormal CXR (259.7 s) versus GTCS with normal CXR (101.2 s). Odds-ratio for CXR abnormality was 20.46 (p = 0.006) with seizure duration greater than 100 s versus less than 100 s. On multivariable analysis, only the seizure duration was a significant predictor of CXR abnormality (p = 0.015). Conclusion Radiographic abnormalities are not uncommon following GTCS. The presence of CXR abnormality is significantly associated with the duration of the preceding GTCS. Severe, untreated PPE may be relevant to the pathophysiology of SUDEP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-24
Number of pages6
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Convulsion
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Seizure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology


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