Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) is a fatal complication of epilepsy. It is defined as the sudden and unexpected, non-traumatic and non-drowning death of a person with epilepsy, without a toxicological or anatomical cause of death detected during the post-mortem examination.
While the mechanisms underlying SUDEP are still poorly understood, it is possibly the most common cause of death as a result of complications from epilepsy, accounting for between 7.5 and 17% of all epilepsy-related deaths and 50% of all deaths in refractory epilepsy.
The causes of SUDEP seems to be multifactorial. These includes; respiratory, cardiac and cerebral factors as well as the severity of epilepsy and seizures. Proposed pathophysiological mechanisms include seizure-induced cardiac and respiratory arrests.
SUDEP occurs in about 1 in 1,000 adults and 1 in 4,500 children with epilepsy a year. Rates of death as a result of prolonged seizures (status epilepticus) are not classified as SUDEP.
As leaders in SUDEP and epilepsy deaths for over 24 years, SUDEP Action knows the topic of SUDEP raises questions and can be worrying for some to think about. But SUDEP Action Day is here to help people take small positive steps towards reducing epilepsy risks. Whether you choose to do one thing or five (or more!) taking #5forEpilepsySafety can help raise awareness which could save lives by sharing risk factors, asking questions, writing to your MP or talking about your epilepsy with friends and family could also help.