COVID-19 Vaccines Safe for People with Epilepsy? A Cross-Sectional Study

Abstract found in DocWire News

Background: COVID-19 disease was first seen in December 2019 and was declared a pandemic soon after. To fight the pandemic, there is an immense need for effective vaccines. The purposes of our study were to investigate the effect of coronavirus vaccines on seizures in people with epilepsy (PWE) and assess the adverse events of COVID-19 vaccine in PWE.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional study. We included epilepsy patients who got vaccinated with two or three doses at least 1 month earlier. We gathered the data using a standardized form. The form contained questions about patients’ demographic features, clinical features, and information about the vaccination and its adverse events. The questionnaire included questions about epilepsy-related adverse events.

Results: We included 178 people with epilepsy in our study. The frequency of adverse events was lower than clinical studies of the vaccines. The mean number of seizures in the month before the vaccination was 1.62, between the doses was 1.61, and after vaccination was 1.64. There was no significant difference in the number of monthly seizures before the vaccination, the month between the doses, or the month after the vaccination (p = 0.46).

Conclusions: The vaccines under consideration in our study were tolerated well by the epilepsy patients. The vaccines did not affect the monthly number of seizures of the people with epilepsy. A small number of patients had more seizures than normal after vaccination. We think that benefits of the vaccines outweigh the slightly increased possibility of having a seizure after vaccination.

COVID Can Affect Brains of Hospitalized Kids

Article appeared in Health Day

The coronavirus can leave more than 40% of children hospitalized for COVID-19 with headaches and other lingering neurological symptoms, a new study claims.

And the kids who developed these headaches or experienced an altered mental status known as acute encephalopathy were more likely to need intensive care, said researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), in Pennsylvania.

“The SARS-CoV-2 virus can affect pediatric patients in different ways: It can cause acute disease, where symptomatic illness comes on soon after infection, or children may develop an inflammatory condition called MIS-C weeks after clearing the virus,” said lead study author Dr. Ericka Fink. She is a pediatric intensivist at the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

The study findings were published recently in the journal Pediatric Neurology. They are the first insights from the pediatric arm of GCS-NeuroCOVID, an international, multicenter consortium aiming to understand how COVID-19 affects the brain and nervous system.

“One of the consortium’s big questions was whether neurological manifestations are similar or different in pediatric patients, depending on which of these two conditions they have,” Fink said in a hospital news release.

The Initial Impact of the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic on Epilepsy Research

Abstract appeared in Wiley Online Library

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the face of many practices throughout the world. Through necessity to minimize spread and provide clinical care to those with severe disease, focus has been on limiting face-to-face contact. Research in many areas has been put on hold. We sought to determine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on epilepsy research from international basic science and clinical researchers. Responses to five questions were solicited through a convenience sample by direct email and through postings on the ILAE social media accounts and an ILAE online platform (utilizing Slack). Information was collected from 15 respondents in 11 countries by email or via Zoom interviews between May 19, 2020, and June 4, 2020. Several themes emerged including a move to virtual working, project delays with laboratory work halted and clinical work reduced, funding concerns, a worry about false data with regard to COVID research and concern about research time lost. However, a number of positive outcomes were highlighted, not least the efficiency of online working and other adaptations that could be sustained in the future.

Barriers to Telemedicine Among Physicians in Epilepsy Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A National-Level Cross-Sectional Survey in Japan

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsy & Behavior

Objective: This study aimed to investigate the factors affecting the unwillingness of physicians involved in epilepsy care to continue telemedicine during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in Japan.

Method: This was a national-level cross-sectional survey initiated by Japan Young Epilepsy Section (YES-Japan) which is a national chapter of The Young Epilepsy Section of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE-YES). We asked physicians who conducted telemedicine in patients with epilepsy (PWE) during the COVID-19 pandemic at four clinics and 21 hospitals specializing in epilepsy care in Japan from March 1 to April 30, 2021. The following data were collected: (1) participant profile, (2) characteristics of PWE treated by telemedicine, and (3) contents and environmental factors of telemedicine. Statistically significant variables (p < 0.05) in the univariate analysis were analyzed in a multivariate binary logistic regression model to detect the independently associated factors with the unwillingness to continue telemedicine.

Result: Among the 115 respondents (response rate: 64%), 89 were included in the final analysis. Of them, 60 (67.4%) were willing to continue telemedicine, and 29 (32.6%) were unwilling. In the univariate binary logistic regression analysis, age (Odds ratio [OR] = 1.84, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.10-3.09, p = 0.02), psychiatrist (OR = 5.88, 95% CI 2.15-16.08, p = 0.001), hospital (OR = 0.10, 95% CI 0.01-0.94, p = 0.04), the number of COVID-19 risk factors in the participant (OR = 2.88, 95% CI 1.46-5.69, p = 0.002), the number of COVID-19 risk factors in the cohabitants (OR = 2.52, 95% CI 1.05-6.01, p = 0.04), COVID-19 epidemic area (OR = 4.37, 95% CI 1.18-16.20, p = 0.03), consultation time during telemedicine (OR = 2.51, 95% CI 1.32-4.76, p = 0.005), workload due to telemedicine (OR = 4.17, 95% CI 2.11-8.24, p < 0.001) were statistically significant. In the multivariate binary logistic regression analysis, workload due to telemedicine (OR = 4.93, 95% CI 1.96-12.35) was independently associated with the unwillingness to continue telemedicine.

Conclusion: This national-level cross-sectional survey found that workload due to telemedicine among physicians involved in epilepsy care was independently associated with the unwillingness to continue telemedicine.

COVID-19 Vaccine Take-Up Rate and Safety in Adults with Epilepsy: Data From a Multicenter Study in China

Summary, originally published in Epilepsia

Objective: This study was undertaken to investigate the COVID-19 vaccine uptake rate and possible postvaccination effects in adults with epilepsy.

Methods: We invited adults with epilepsy attending three centers in China from July 24 to August 31, 2021 to participate in this study. We also asked age- and sex-matched controls among people attending for other chronic neuropsychiatric conditions and healthy controls accompanying people with illness attending the hospitals to participate. We excluded people who, under the national guidelines, had evident contradictions to vaccination. Participants were interviewed face-to-face using questionnaires. Vaccine uptake and postvaccine adverse events among the people with epilepsy were compared with those with neuropsychiatric conditions and controls. We also compared the willingness and reasons for hesitancy among unvaccinated participants.

Results: We enrolled 981 people, of whom 491 had epilepsy, 217 had other neuropsychiatric conditions, and 273 were controls. Forty-two percent of those with epilepsy had had the first dose of a vaccine, compared with 93% of controls and 84% of the people with neuropsychiatric conditions (p < .0001). The majority (93.8%) of those immunized had inactivated vaccines. Among the unvaccinated people with epilepsy, 59.6% were willing to have the vaccine. Their main reasons for hesitation were potential adverse effects (53.3%) and concerns about losing seizure control (47.0%). The incidence of adverse events in the epilepsy group was similar to controls. Nineteen people with epilepsy reported an increase in seizure frequency. No episode of status epilepticus or prolonged seizures was reported. Two controls had their first-ever seizure, which was unlikely related to the vaccine.

Significance: The vaccine uptake rate in people with epilepsy was lower than in their same-age controls. The postvaccination effect was no higher than in controls. We found no evidence suggesting worsening seizures after vaccination. Measurement and education focused on increasing the vaccination rate in epilepsy are warranted.

Prevalence of Depression and Suicidal Ideation in Persons with Epilepsy During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Longitudinal Study from India

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsy & Behavior

Objectives: COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted healthcare services for chronic disorders such as epilepsy. In this study, the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on persons with epilepsy (PWE) with regard to their seizure control, depression status, and medication adherence was assessed.

Methods: After ethical clearance, 449 PWE who had been previously evaluated for depression at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, India, were telephonically revaluated using Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview and surveyed for source of medication and medication adherence over past 6 months. The prevalence and the association of depression, suicidality, and seizures during pandemic with different PWE variables were determined.

Results: Out of 449 PWE, 70.6% responded. 19.9% were diagnosed positive for depression as per MINI while suicidal ideation was observed in 5.4%. Seventy six (23.9%) PWE reported seizures during pandemic. The incidence was greater in females, unemployed, previously uncontrolled epilepsy, polytherapy, altered use of medications, and depressed PWE. Seizure during pandemic, increased seizure frequency, previous history of depression, and altered use of medications were all significantly associated with depression during COVID-19 pandemic (2.6-95%CI, 1.45-4.73; 1.9-95%CI, 1.01-3.57; 8.8-95%CI, 4.54-17.21; 2.9-95%CI, 1.19-7.24), and polytherapy (2.9-95%CI, 0.92-9.04), seizures during pandemic (3.9-95%CI, 1.45-10.53) and previous history of depression and suicidality, were related with suicidal ideation.

Conclusion: COVID-19 pandemic-induced disruptions can be detrimental for people with epilepsy, and restoring services to the pre-covid levels as well as putting appropriate continuity plans in place for care of people with epilepsy should be a priority.

Psychological Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic for Patients with Epilepsy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsy & Behavior

Objective: To investigate psychological comorbidities in patients with epilepsy during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Method: A systematic review and meta-analysis approach was used to comprehensively search MEDLINE, CENTRAL, EMBASE, and databases for relevant studies. Studies that reported psychological stress in patients with epilepsy during the COVID-19 pandemic were included. Psychological comorbidities were defined as anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance. Pooled proportions of psychological comorbidities with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were assessed using a random-effects model. The quality of assessment for each study, heterogeneity between the studies, and publication bias were also evaluated.

Results: A total of 28 studies with 7959 patients/caregivers were included in the meta-analysis. The pooled proportions of anxiety/worry, depression/bad mood, and sleep disturbance were 38.9% (95% CI: 31.3-46.7); I2 = 97%; p < 0.01, 30.9% (95% CI: 23.3-38.9), I2 = 97%; p < 0.01, and 36.5% (95% CI: 28.3-45.1), I2 = 97%, p < 0.01, respectively.

Conclusion: Although the heterogeneity was high, our results showed a relatively high incidence of psychological comorbidities. Therefore, clinicians need to intervene early in the stress of patients with epilepsy to prevent worsening of stress, which can result in seizure worsening.

Seizures as the Main Presenting Manifestation of Acute SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Children

Abstract, originally published in Seizure.

Objectives: To explore the rate, characteristics, risk factors, and prognosis of children presenting with seizures as the main symptom of acute COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019).

Methods: We conducted a systematic retrospective study to identify all children who presented to the emergency departments of a tertiary academic medical center between March 1st and December 31st 2020 and had a SARS-CoV-2 infection based on RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) from nasopharyngeal swab. Clinical and demographic data were extracted from the electronic medical records and reviewed.

Results: Total of 175 children were diagnosed with acute SARS-CoV-2 infection in the emergency departments during the study period. Of those, 11 presented with seizures. Age ranged from six months to 17 years and 4 were girls. Five presented with status epilepticus and responded to loading doses of anti-seizure medications. Six had fever. Seven had prior history of neurological disorder. Full recovery was the rule.

Significance: Unlike in adults, seizures occur early and may be the main manifestation of acute COVID-19 in children. Seizures, including status epilepticus, may occur without fever even in children with no history of epilepsy and are not associated with severe disease. A high index of suspicion is required for early diagnosis thus infection control measures can be taken.

Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures During the COVID-19 Pandemic in New York City – A Distinct Response From the Epilepsy Experience

Abstract, origionally published in Epilepsy & Behavior

Although psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) are a common neurologic condition, there remains a paucity of literature on the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on these patients. Using a cross-sectional questionnaire study, our group examined the experience of patients with PNES at a single Comprehensive Epilepsy Center in New York City, the epicenter of the initial COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. Among our cohort of 18 subjects with PNES, 22.2% reported an improvement in seizure control during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City. Compared to the cohort of subjects with epilepsy without PNES, subjects with PNES were significantly more likely to report an improvement (p = 0.033). Our findings signal that sleep and stress may be relevant variables in both conditions that should be further investigated and potentially intervened upon. Larger dedicated studies of patients with PNES are needed to understand the impact of the pandemic’s widespread societal effects on these patients.

Epilepsy Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsia

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has affected the care of all patients around the world. The International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) COVID-19 and Telemedicine Task Forces examined, through surveys to people with epilepsy (PWE), caregivers, and health care professionals, how the pandemic has affected the well-being, care, and services for PWE.

The ILAE included a link on their website whereby PWE and/or their caregivers could fill out a survey (in 11 languages) about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including access to health services and impact on mental health, including the 6-item Kessler Psychological Distress Scale. An anonymous link was also provided whereby health care providers could report cases of new-onset seizures or an exacerbation of seizures in the context of COVID-19. Finally, a separate questionnaire aimed at exploring the utilization of telehealth by health care professionals since the pandemic began was available on the ILAE website and also disseminated to its members.

Seventeen case reports were received; data were limited and therefore no firm conclusions could be drawn. Of 590 respondents to the well-being survey (422 PWE, 166 caregivers), 22.8% PWE and 27.5% caregivers reported an increase in seizure frequency, with difficulty in accessing medication and health care professionals reported as barriers to care. Of all respondents, 57.1% PWE and 21.5% caregivers had severe psychological distress (k score >13), which was significantly higher among PWE than caregivers (p<0.01).

An increase in telemedicine use during the COVID-19 pandemic was reported by health care professionals, with 40% of consultations conducted by this method. Although 74.9% of health care providers thought that this impacted positively, barriers to care were also identified. As we move forward, there is a need to ensure ongoing support and care for PWE to prevent a parallel pandemic of unmet health care needs.