March 19, 2021

Socioeconomic Impact on Epilepsy Outside of the Nationwide COVID-19 Pandemic Area

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsy & Behavior

Objective: To identify people with epilepsy (PWE) who required extensive care before the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic that had world-wide impacts on medical care and on socio-economic conditions.

Methods: Consecutive PWE who were treated at the epilepsy center of Hiroshima University Hospital, which was located in the COVID-19 non-pandemic area, between March 2019 and August 2020 were enrolled. We evaluated clinical and socioeconomic factors that were associated with seizure exacerbation (an increase in seizure frequency) during the first 6 months after the COVID-19 pandemic started compared with the previous 6 months.

Results: Among the 196 PWE who were evaluated (mean age was 37.8 ± 16.2 years), there were 33 PWE (16.8%) whose seizure frequency had increased after the pandemic began. People with epilepsy with a seizure increase showed a significant association with living alone (p < 0.001), a higher seizure frequency (p < 0.001), negative findings on MRI (p = 0.020), history of dissociative seizure (p < 0.001), mood disorders (p < 0.001), insomnia (p < 0.001), and high psychological stress levels (p = 0.024) at baseline compared with PWE without seizure exacerbation. Multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that “living alone” (odds ratio (OR) 3.69; 95%CI 1.29-10.52), “high seizure frequency at baseline” (OR 4.53; 95%CI 1.63-12.57), and “comorbidity of insomnia” (OR 9.55; 95%CI 3.71-24.55) were independently associated with seizure exacerbation.

Conclusions: Even in the non-pandemic area, people with epilepsy had seizure exacerbation, suggesting that clinicians should screen patients’ mental health before the outbreak to provide care, reduce the burden, and prevent social isolation in people with epilepsy. This should be addressed particularly in patients with medically refractory seizures with insomnia who live alone.

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