December 30, 2022

Psychiatric Co-Morbidity of Drug-Resistant Epilepsy in Veterans

Abstract found on PubMed 

Objective: Psychiatric conditions are frequently co-morbid in epilepsy and studies examining Veterans with epilepsy suggest this population may present with unique psychiatric and clinical features Drug-resistant epilepsy (DRE) may confer a greater risk of psychiatric dysfunction; however, there is a paucity of literature documenting this. To expand our clinical understanding of Veterans with DRE, we assessed a comprehensive Veterans Health Administration (VHA)-wide sample, describing psychiatric conditions, medications, and healthcare utilization.

Methods: Psychiatric and hospitalization data were collected on 52,579 Veterans enrolled in VHA healthcare between FY2014-2ndQtr. FY2020 from the VHA Corporate Data Warehouse administrative data. Data examined include psychiatric diagnosis, psychotropic medication use, and utilization of hospital services.

Results: At least one psychiatric diagnosis was present in 70.2% of patients, while 49.8% had two or more diagnoses. Depression (51.7%), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (38.8%), and anxiety (38.0%) represented the most common psychiatric co-morbidities. Psychiatric medication use was present in 73.3%. Emergency room (ER) visits were highest in those with suicidality (mean 14.9 visits), followed by bipolar disorder (10.3), and schizophrenia (12.1). Psychiatric-related hospitalizations were highest for schizophrenia (mean 2.5 admissions) and bipolar disorder (2.3). Females had more psychiatric diagnoses (2.4 vs. 1.6, p < 0.001), psychiatric medications (3.4 vs. 2.3, p < 0.001), and ER utilization than males (6.9 vs. 5.5, p < 0.001).

Significance: A substantial psychiatric burden exists among Veterans with drug-resistant epilepsy (DRE). Compared to prior epilepsy literature, results suggest that Veterans with DRE evidence more prevalent psychiatric comorbidity, emergency care usage, and inpatient psychiatric admissions. Females were especially impacted, with greater rates of psychiatric conditions and treatment. Considering the relationship of psychiatric comorbidities in epilepsy with psychosocial functioning and quality of life, our findings highlight the need for screening and provision of services for those with DRE.

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