The brain-heart connection: Implications for understanding sudden unexpected death in epilepsy

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Scorza, Fulvio Alexandre [UNIFESP]
Arida, Ricardo Mario [UNIFESP]
Cysneiros, Roberta Monterazzo [UNIFESP]
Terra, Vera C.
Sonoda, Eliza Yumi de Freitas [UNIFESP]
Albuquerque, Marly de [UNIFESP]
Cavalheiro, Esper Abrão [UNIFESP]
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Epilepsy is one of the commonest neurological problems worldwide. Approximately 3% of the general population will suffer from epilepsy at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, individuals with epilepsy are at a higher risk of death than the general population, and sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is the most important direct epilepsy-related cause of death. Information concerning risk factors for SUDEP is conflicting, but potential risk factors include young age, early onset of epilepsy, duration of epilepsy, uncontrolled seizures, seizure frequency, antiepileptic drug number and winter temperatures. Although the cause of SUDEP is still unknown, its most commonly suggested mechanisms are cardiac abnormalities during and between seizures. As the anatomical substrate of epileptic activity in the central nervous system shows a direct relation to cardiovascular alterations, this may suggest that patients with epilepsy associated with focal central nervous system lesions may face a particular risk of SUDEP. Currently, experimental and clinical data supports the importance of specific brain structures in the behavioural manifestation, the initiation and the propagation of seizures. Regarding the above findings, our research group focused on this review article that S UDEP could be related to the occurrence of specific brain structure dysfunction or anatomical change, at least in some cases. (Cardiol J 2009; 16, 5: 394-399)
Cardiology Journal. Gdansk: Via Medica, v. 16, n. 5, p. 394-399, 2009.