January 29, 2021

Study Finds Lack of Consistent Guidelines and Recommendations for Specialty Care Referral for Patients With Epilepsy

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsy & Behavior

Objective: In epilepsy, patients who receive appropriate care receive treatment that differs substantially from those that do not. Given the need for a more detailed assessment of the role of specialty referral in the care of patients with epilepsy, this systematic literature review identified epilepsy care guidelines and recommendations that specifically address when and why people with epilepsy should be referred to specialty care.

Methods: This study identified recent (in the last 10 years) publications that made best-practice recommendations for referring people with epilepsy to a neurologist or epileptologist. We searched six databases in December 2018: MEDLINE (PubMed), Cochrane Library, ProQuest, Web of Science, CINAHL (Ebsco), Scopus (Elsevier). Search terms included “Epilepsy” OR “Seizures,” “Guideline” OR “Practice Parameter,” and “Referral.”

Results: The 15 full-text articles identified included formal guidelines, summaries of these guidelines, or professional commentary that builds upon existing guidelines. Most of these publications came from the U.K and its National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Overall, the included recommendations for referral varied considerably both for new-onset and refractory epilepsy. Although these recommendations were not consistent, it is reasonable to refer patients following the failure of 2 anti-seizure medication (ASM) trials.

Significance: Guidelines and informal recommendations are not consistent regarding best practices for specialty care referral for patients with epilepsy. These guidelines and recommendations should consider the context of care in real-world settings and suggest pragmatic approaches that optimize seizure control and functioning.

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