June 21, 2021

Anxiety of Families After First Unprovoked or First Febrile Seizure: A Prospective, Randomized Pilot Study

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsy & Behavior

Objectives: Parents of children with a first unprovoked seizure report high levels of stress and anxiety. Little is known however about interventions that might help to reduce anxiety. We aimed to evaluate anxiety of parents and children after a first unprovoked seizure and assess the anxiety-reducing effect of a semi-structured follow-up in a first seizure clinic (FSC). In comparison, parents of children with febrile seizures are also evaluated, as an example of anxiety evolution without follow-up intervention after provoked seizures.

Study design: In this prospective, interventional study, patients presenting with a first unprovoked seizure were randomized to early care (EC) with follow-up in FSC within 3 weeks and late care (LC), follow-up in FSC after 4 months. Anxiety levels of parents and patients were scored with the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) after the initial seizure (T0), 3 and 12 months (T1, T2). To assess the effect of the semi-structured follow-up, anxiety scores were compared between the two groups at baseline, at T1 (i.e., after intervention in EC but prior to intervention in LC) and at T2. Parents of children with febrile seizures (FS) were prospectively followed up without intervention.

Results: Fifty two patients were included (EC n = 18, LC n = 18, FS n = 15). Initial state anxiety in parents was high in all groups. At T1 (i. e. after intervention in EC but not LC) state anxiety was significantly higher in LC (52.2 (16.7) vs. 33.3 (5.3), p < 0.01). This effect persisted after 12 months, despite intervention in LC in the meantime (39.0 (11.7) vs. 28.8 (6.2); p < 0.01)). The effect in children was similar (T1: 40.6 (8.3) vs. 29.8 (5.1); p < 0.05 and T2: 33.5 (4.7) vs. 24.7 (3.6); p < 0.01). State anxiety in FS decreased within 3 months without intervention (50.0 (14.5) to 33.7 (9.2)).

Conclusions: A timely and structured follow-up in a first seizure clinic offers effective and sustained reduction of anxiety-levels after first unprovoked seizure in children. In contrast, anxiety after a first febrile seizure decreases over time without additional intervention.

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