People with epilepsy (PWE) have a two- to threefold increased chance of premature death due to the condition. Interested in exploring the first-person perspective on this topic, researchers conducted a narrative synthesis to present the qualitative insight of PWE, their family, friends, and healthcare providers (HCPs) in relation to epilepsy-related death.
A comprehensive electronic search of all peer-reviewed qualitative studies was conducted through databases using relevant keywords and Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) terms. Handsearching and exploration of pertinent gray literature was conducted thereafter. After a comprehensive literature search, the decisions of inclusion of literature were discussed and confirmed between the two authors. A total of 20 peer-reviewed papers were included. Within this, 17 were qualitative or mixed methods studies, and three were gray literature and guidelines/recommendations in discussing sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) with PWE and their families. The resultant main categories were the following: a) understanding of SUDEP and b) discussion of SUDEP.
Findings show that there is an overall lack of understanding of unexpected epilepsy-related death for people with epilepsy and their relations. The literature focused on the education of PWE and their family in relation to SUDEP, and therefore, there is a lack of discussion on the general topic of epilepsy-related death. Findings show the conflicting perceptions, feelings, and thought processes that occur in learning about and deciding to discuss SUDEP as a healthcare provider, person with epilepsy, or family/friend of a person with epilepsy. The literature suggests that it would be appropriate and necessary to discuss the topic of SUDEP with patients and their family members upon diagnosis.