Respiratory pathophysiology with seizures and implications for sudden unexpected death in epilepsy

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SUMMARY:: There is increasing evidence that periictal respiratory disturbances are an important contributor to the pathophysiological changes leading to sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). In patients with SUDEP occurring in epilepsy monitoring units, respiratory disturbances occurred early in the postictal period and frequently preceded terminal bradycardia and asystole. Periictal hypoxemia and hypercapnia are observed in about one-third of patients undergoing video-EEG telemetry. Pulmonary edema is frequently observed at autopsy in cases of SUDEP and may be relevant as a contributing cause in a subset of SUDEP. Animal studies support the notion that periictal respiratory disturbances are crucial to the pathophysiology of SUDEP. Serotonergic neurons modulate the excitability of the neuronal network generating the respiratory rhythm. Ictal and periictal impairment of serotonergic and glutaminergic neurons involved in the arousal system may also predispose to SUDEP by impeding the patient's ability to reposition the head and facilitate ventilation after a seizure. Periictal functional impairment of serotonergic neurons seems to be important in the pathophysiology of SUDEP and a potential target for pharmacotherapy aimed at SUDEP risk reduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-13
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Clinical Neurophysiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 13 2015



  • Autonomic
  • Pulmonary Edema
  • Respiratory
  • Review
  • Seizures

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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