December 21, 2020

Exploring Quality of Life in Individuals with a Severe Developmental and Epileptic Encephalopathy, CDKL5 Deficiency Disorder

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsy Research

Background: CDKL5 Deficiency Disorder (CDD) is a rare genetic disorder caused by a mutation in the cyclin-dependent kinase-like 5 (CDKL5) gene. It is now considered to be a developmental and epileptic encephalopathy because of the early onset of seizures in association with severe global delay. Other features include cortical visual impairment, sleep and gastro-intestinal problems. Progress in clinical understanding, especially regarding the spectrum of functional ability, seizure patterns, and other comorbidities was initially slow but accelerated in 2012 with the establishment of the International CDKL5 Database (ICDD). Our aim was to use this data source to investigate quality of life (QOL) and associated factors in this disorder.

Method: A follow-up questionnaire was administered in 2018 to parents of children registered with the ICDD who had a pathogenic CDKL5 variant. QOL was assessed using QI Disability, an instrument, specifically developed to measure total and specific domains of QOL (physical health, positive emotions, negative emotions, social interaction, leisure and the outdoors (leisure) and independence) in children with intellectual disability. Associations with functional abilities, physical health, mental health and family factors were investigated, initially using univariate analyses followed by multivariate analyses for each of these groups with a final composite model which included the important variables identified from previous models.

Results: Questionnaires were returned by 129/160 families with a child aged >3 years. Functional impairment, including lack of ability to sit, use hands and communicate had the greatest adverse impact on QOL. There were also some relationships with major genotype groupings. Individuals using three or more anti-epileptic medications had poorer QOL than those on one or no medication, particularly in the physical health domain. There was also variation by geographical region with those living in North America typically having the best QOL and those living in middle or lower income countries poorer QOL.

Conclusion: Although lower functional abilities were associated with poorer quality of life, further research is needed to understand how environmental supports might mitigate this deficit. Comprehensive care and support for both the child and family have important roles to play in helping families to thrive despite the severity of CDD.

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