Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy: a retrospective autopsy study of 112 epileptic patients

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ARSLAN, Murat Nihat
MELEZ, Deniz Oğuzhan
ŞANLI, Ahmet Necati
KOÇ, Sermet
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Introduction: Sudden unexpected deaths comprise the most important and worthy investigation case profiles in both neurology and forensic medicine. Epilepsy, which is one of the neuropathological causes of sudden unexpected deaths, is an important disorder having mysterious aspects. The aim of this study is to make common the points of view between neurology and forensic medicine experts and to discuss the features of the findings together with the related clinical hypotheses, leading to the differential diagnosis of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) by presenting autopsy findings and available medical data of patients who had a prior diagnosis of epilepsy. Methods: In Istanbul, the cases of 20334 autopsied patients who were referred to The Ministry of Justice Council of Forensic Medicine between 2007 and 2011 were identified from the complete forensic autopsy data of the city and were retrospectively reviewed. Patients who had a prior diagnosis of epilepsy were included. Both descriptive and inferential statistical analyses were performed through the parameters of demographical data, physical properties, incident features, macroscopic-microscopic autopsy findings, and cause of death initially for all cases and then separately for SUDEP cases. Results: Among the 20334 patients, 112 were determined to have a prior diagnosis of epilepsy. A possible macroscopic and/or microscopic epileptic focus was present in 23 (20.5%) of these 112 cases. The cause of death was determined to be SUDEP in 40 (35.7%) cases, while it could not be determined in 28 (25%) cases. Among patients whose death cause was considered as SUDEP, the male-to-female ratio was 1.1:1, while the mean age was 31.5±13.9 years in males and 29.6±12.9 years in females. The presence of hypertrophy and myocardial scar tissue findings in the microscopic examination were significantly more frequent among patients determined to have died from cardiovascular diseases compared to patients in the SUDEP group (p=0.001 for each finding). Besides, in 40 SUDEP cases, 38 (95%) patients underwent toxicological analysis and no antiepileptic agent was detected in 21 (55.3%) of these. Conclusion: It can be concluded that there is equality in gender distribution among SUDEP patients, that the young adult population has a slightly increased risk for SUDEP, and that the inconsistent use of antiepileptic medicines is a greater risk factor for SUDEP than polytherapy. Besides, it is important to emphasize that all clinical and postmortem parameters together should be considered for the differential diagnosis of SUDEP, particularly with cardiovascular diseases.
ESEN MELEZ İ. E. , ARSLAN M. N. , MELEZ D. O. , ŞANLI A. N. , KOÇ S., -Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy: a retrospective autopsy study of 112 epileptic patients-, NOROPSIKIYATRI ARSIVI-ARCHIVES OF NEUROPSYCHIATRY, cilt.2017, ss.1-9, 2016
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