December 1, 2020

Seizure Control, Stress, and Access to Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic in New York City: The Patient Perspective

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsia

Objective: Our epilepsy population recently experienced the acute effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City. Herein, we aimed to determine patient-perceived seizure control during the surge, specific variables associated with worsened seizures, the prevalence of specific barriers to care, and patient-perceived efficacy of epilepsy care delivered via telephone and live video visits during the pandemic.

Methods: We performed a cross-sectional questionnaire study of adult epilepsy patients who had a scheduled appointment at a single urban Comprehensive Epilepsy Center (Montefiore Medical Center) between March 1, 2020 and May 31, 2020 during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Bronx. Subjects able to answer the questionnaire themselves in English or Spanish were eligible to complete a one-time survey via telephone or secure online platform (REDCap).

Results: Of 1212 subjects screened, 675 were eligible, and 177 adequately completed the questionnaire. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 75.1% of patients reported no change in seizure control, whereas 17.5% reported that their seizure control had worsened, and 7.3% reported improvement. Subjects who reported worsened seizure control had more frequent seizures at baseline, were more likely to identify stress and headaches/migraines as their typical seizure precipitants, and were significantly more likely to report increased stress related to the pandemic. Subjects with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 did not report worsened seizure control. Nearly 17% of subjects reported poorer epilepsy care, and 9.6% had difficulty obtaining their antiseizure medications; these subjects were significantly more likely to report worse seizure control.

Significance: Of the nearly 20% of subjects who reported worsened seizure control during the COVID-19 pandemic, stress and barriers to care appear to have posed the greatest challenge. This unprecedented pandemic exacerbated existing and created new barriers to epilepsy care, which must be addressed.

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