January 20, 2023

Communication About Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy: Understanding the Caregiver Perspective

Abstract found on Wiley Online Library

Objective: We aimed to characterize (1) the caregiver experience of learning about sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP), and (2) caregiver preferences for SUDEP risk disclosure.

Methods: We distributed a 24-question survey to caregivers of children with epilepsy. Free text questions were analyzed using a rapid qualitative analysis approach.

Results: Two hundred and twelve caregivers of people with epilepsy completed the survey, including 12 bereaved caregivers. Caregivers’ children had a high seizure burden, with a median seizure frequency of 24 seizures per year (range: 1 to ?100). Most participants were aware of SUDEP at the time of the survey (193/212; 91%) though only a minority had learned about SUDEP from a healthcare provider (91/193; 47.2%). Caregivers typically learned about SUDEP from a nonprofit or online source (91/161; 56.5%). Almost all caregivers wanted to discuss SUDEP with their child’s healthcare provider (209/212; 98.6%), and preferred disclosure from epileptologists (193/212; 91%), neurologists (191/212; 90.1), and/or primary care providers (98/212; 46.2%). In open-ended responses, caregivers highlighted the value of learning about SUDEP from a healthcare provider, the importance of pairing SUDEP risk disclosure with a discussion of how to mitigate risk, and the need for educational resources and peer support.

Interpretation: Caregivers of people with epilepsy appreciate when healthcare providers disclose information about SUDEP, yet typically hear about SUDEP elsewhere. These findings underscore the importance of interventions to improve and support SUDEP risk disclosure. Future work should evaluate strategies to disclose SUDEP risk and the impact of early SUDEP risk disclosure.