August 19, 2020

Epilepsy in the Time of COVID-19: A Survey-Based Study

Abstract published in Neurologica

Objectives: Collateral damage may occur in epilepsy management during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This study aimed to establish the impact of this pandemic on epilepsy patients in terms of patient-reported seizure control and emerging symptoms.

Materials & Methods: This cross-sectional study included consecutive patients assessed by telephone contact in an epilepsy clinic during the first month of confinement. Demographic and clinical characteristics were recorded, and a 19-item questionnaire was systematically completed. Data regarding the impact of confinement, economic effects of the pandemic, and subjective perception of telemedicine were recorded. Additional clinical data were obtained in patients with a COVID-19 diagnosis.

Results: Two-hundred and fifty-five patients were recruited: average age 48.2±19.8 years, 121 (47.5%) women. An increase in seizure frequency was reported by 25 (9.8%) patients. Sixty-eight (26.7%) patients reported confinement-related anxiety, 22 (8.6%) depression, 31 (12.2%) both, and 72 (28.2%) insomnia. Seventy-three (28.6%) patients reported a reduction in economic income. Further analysis showed that tumor-related epilepsy etiology, drug-resistant epilepsy, insomnia, fear of epilepsy, and income reduction were associated with a higher risk of increased seizure frequency. Telemedicine was considered satisfactory by 214 (83.9%) patients. Five patients were diagnosed with COVID-19, with no changes in seizure frequency.

Conclusions: The COVID-19 pandemic has effects in epilepsy patients. Patients with tumor-related, drug-resistant epilepsy, insomnia, and economic difficulties are at a higher risk of increased seizure frequency. Telemedicine represents a suitable tool in this setting.

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