Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP)

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UW Health's comprehensive epilepsy program at UW Hospital and Clinics in Madison, Wisconsin, offers state-of-the-art care for patients with epilepsy or those suspected of having seizures.


Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP)

  • Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) is a rare condition during which young or middle-aged people (most often 20-40 years old) with epilepsy die with no apparent cause.
  • Victims are often found without evidence of having had a seizure and appeared to have been in otherwise good health prior to experiencing SUDEP.
  • Victims are often found in bed, leading researchers to suggest a combination of sleep apnea, increased lung fluid and impaired breathing cause death in cases of SUDEP.

SUDEP Risk Factors

  • Epilepsy patients have a one in 3,000 chance of SUDEP each year, and risks are greater for men than women.
  • SUDEP is more common in people with frequent, convulsive seizures, patients who have been diagnosed at an early age, patients who have had epilepsy for many years, people who take more antiepileptic medications and people who have changed medications frequently.
  • SUDEP is rare for people who are recently diagnosed, do not experience convulstive seizures and whose seizures are under control.

SUDEP Safety Tips

  • Take your medications as proscribed.
  • See your physician regularly and report any trouble with controlling seizures.
  • Adult patients who have tonic-clonic seizures should be supervised during sleep, if possible.
  • Family members and caregivers should research SUDEP and learn CPR and basic first aid in anticipation of an episode.