Abstract found on PubMed
Objectives: During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the global population experienced changes in diagnosis and treatment patterns. The aim of this study was to evaluate the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with epilepsy (PWE) and epilepsy specialists in China.
Methods: We retrospectively evaluated newly diagnosed PWE from January 2018 to January 2022 at Shanxi Bethune Hospital. The clinical characteristics of PWE and the prescription habits of epilepsy specialists were analyzed. We also explored changes in seizure control among PWE as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and assessed the possible causes.
Results: After excluding 49 PWE who were lost to follow-up, 421 PWE were included in the study. They were divided into a prepandemic group and a pandemic group, with December 2019 as the boundary. By comparing the two groups, we found that the duration between first symptom detection and diagnosis was longer in the pandemic group than in the prepandemic group. Epilepsy specialists preferred prescribing the fast-acting antiepileptic drug levetiracetam (LEV) in the pandemic group. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 49.57% of PWE reported difficulties in accessing their epilepsy healthcare provider, and 26.96% reported that appointments with their providers occurred as usual. A lack of anti-seizure medication (ASM) availability was reported by 32.17% of subjects. An increase in seizure frequency was noted in 25.22% of the PWE during the pandemic. The factors increasing seizure frequency during the pandemic were fear of COVID-19, exacerbation of mental states, sleep deprivation, cancelation of regular medical visits, difficulties accessing epilepsy healthcare providers, and a lack of ASM availability.
Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic exposed PWE to harmful consequences mainly due to medical shortages and worse life states. During the pandemic, there were delays in the diagnosis of PWE, and doctors’ prescription habits changed. We must consider the lessons learned during this period of social restrictions and employ recent technological advances to improve treatment for PWE.