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The Consequences of Uncontrolled Epilepsy

  • Michael R. Sperling

The consequences of epilepsy can be quite severe and include shortened lifespan, excessive bodily injury, neuropsychological and psychiatric impairment, and social disability. There is evidence that seizures cause brain injury, including neuronal death and physiological dysfunction. Mortality rates are 4—7 times higher in people with medically refractory seizures, and injury rates are substantial, ranging from one per 20 person-years to as much as one per 3 person-years. Quality of life is impaired in epilepsy, and relates to seizure control. Psychosocial disabilities, including lower social interaction with reduced marriage rates and reduced employment levels, are more common in people with refractory seizures. Complete seizure control is desirable, since seizures potentially constitute a serious threat to health and well-being. Therefore, satisfactory seizure control should be defined as having no seizures. Treatment should be directed to preventing seizures whenever possible and achieving control early in the course of illness. The risks of uncontrolled seizures outweigh the risks of aggressive medical or surgical therapy.

Corresponding author
Please direct all correspondence to: Michael R. Sperling, MD, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, 111 S. 11th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107; Tel: 215-955-1222, Fax:, 215-955-3745; E-mail:
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