Abstract found on PubMed
Purpose: This study assesses investigations, referrals and admissions in patients presenting to the Emergency Department (ED) with seizures, and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on such management. Outcomes in patients with learning disabilities, active significant mental health concerns, and from the most socioeconomically deprived areas were compared to those of the general cohort.
Methods: Investigations, referrals and admissions were recorded for 120 patients across two cohorts; pre-pandemic (September 2019) and during the pandemic (December 2020). Retrospective review of individual patient electronic health care records was used for data collection.
Results: There was a decrease in patient numbers from 2019 to 2020. A greater proportion of patients presented with organic cause seizures and fewer presented with non-epileptic attacks. Frequent use of CT heads (45%) is likely to represent improper use of limited resources. There were low referral rates, both to acute neurology (28%) and to the adult epilepsy team (32%). Patients with active significant mental health concerns were significantly less likely to be referred to neurology or admitted.
Conclusions: Despite a greater proportion of admissions during the Covid-19 pandemic, referrals to acute neurology and the epilepsy team remained low. Failure to refer prevents the most vulnerable seizure patients from receiving appropriate support, as seen in patients with active significant mental health concerns. Neurology staff were unaware of a significant number of patients presenting with seizures, which is of concern in an already over-stretched department. This offers an opportunity to improve care for people with epilepsy.