Epilepsy And Sudden Death

According to U.K. charity Epilepsy Action, sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is a rare condition where a person with epilepsy dies with no apparent cause. The condition is reported by NYU Langone Medical Center to be most common in young and middle aged people with epilepsy.


Epilepsy Action describes epilepsy as a condition where people have recurrent seizures caused by excess electrical current passing through the brain. This surge of electrical activity blocks and confuses messages sent from the brain to other parts of the body.


Awareness group Epilepsy Ontario reports SUDEP to have been known about since the 18th Century with little ground being made in the understanding of the condition. In 2010 Epilepsy Action reports any unexplained death in a person with epilepsy is classed as SUDEP.


According to the NYU Langone Center, three factors must come together for a death to be classified as SUDEP. The first factor is sudden, unexpected death, the second is the lack of an apparent cause and finally the victim must have had epilepsy.

Risk Factors

A number of groups are at risk from SUDEP that are listed by Epilepsy Action as people with poor control of seizures and those who have seizures in their sleep. Other groups at risk include those with learning disabilities, young adult men and those who have large, sudden changes to antiepileptic medication.


NYU Langone Medical Center describes the risk of people with epilepsy suffering from SUDEP as extremely small. For the majority of people with the condition, the risk is 1 in 3000 per year. For people with more frequent seizures the risk factor is around 1 in 300 per year.

According to U.K. charity Epilepsy Action