July 6, 2021

How Much Can Medical Management Alone Improve the Outcome of Adult Drug-resistant Epilepsy? An Exploratory Study on Possibilities and Limitations of Combining Multiple Therapeutic Actions

Abstract, published in Epilepsy & Behavior

Purpose: Failure to control epileptic seizures with two medications, adequately chosen and dosed, indicates drug-resistant epilepsy (DRE). The chance of pharmacologically controlling seizures is low for patients with DRE and uncontrolled seizures who are not candidates for surgery, who have already undergone surgery, or who already had a vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) placed. Patients experiencing these conditions must instead rely on medical management of their seizures, and there is no breakthrough solution on the horizon. Medical care of DRE might be optimized by systematically considering factors that promote and inhibit breakthrough seizures. For example, seizure control could be enhanced through measures such as increasing the frequency of follow-up visits, tracking treatment plan compliance, treating sleep disorders, rational polypharmacy, adjusting drug administration to achieve higher levels when seizures are more likely and educating patients on seizure triggers. A systematic and simultaneous implementation of all of these measures is likely to yield a sizable, clinically relevant, improvement. This paper presents an exploratory study on the effects of implementing such an approach, specifically evaluating this method’s impact on seizure frequency.

Methods: I performed a retrospective chart review of 659 consecutive adult patients with epilepsy followed up at the University of Utah and at the Salt Lake City VA Medical center using the multimodal approach described above. I identified 27 patients who had DRE and uncontrolled seizures and in whom a medical management optimization protocol was implemented. I measured these patients’ seizure frequency at the beginning and the end of the study period and compared the results with those of a matching control group of 48 patients.

Results: The optimization protocol did not increase the number of seizure-free patients with DRE; however, it was effective in minimizing seizure frequency in patients whose seizures remained uncontrolled. Among these patients, the median seizure frequency dropped by 64% in the optimization group but did not change in the control group.

Conclusions: Despite the high occurrence of drug-resistant epilepsy, there is no accepted protocol for the related medical management. This paper describes an effective approach that can be implemented in a clinically relevant and readily achievable manner.

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