Accidental injury is a serious risk in children with typical absence epilepsy

Elaine C. Wirrell, Peter R. Camfield, Carol S. Camfield, Joseph M. Dooley, Kevin E. Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Objectives: To determine if young adults with a history of typical absence epilepsy (AE) in childhood have a greater risk of accidental injury than controls with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA). To assess the nature and severity of these injuries. Methods: All patients with AE or JRA diagnosed between 1977 and 1985, who were 18 years or older at the onset of the study, were identified from review of pediatric electroencephalographic records for the province of Nova Scotia (AE) or review of the medical records database at the only tertiary care pediatric center for the province (J RA). Fifty-nine (86%) of 69 patients with AE and 61 (80%) of 76 patients with JRA participated in an interview in 1994 or 1995, assessing nature, severity, and treatment of prior accidental injuries. Patients with AE were further questioned about injuries sustained during an absence seizure. Results: Sixteen (27%) of 59 patients with AE reported accidental injury during an absence seizure, with the risk of injury being 9% per person-year of AE. Most injuries (81%) occurred during anti-epileptic drug therapy. Although the majority of injuries did not require treatment, 2 (13%) of 16 patients required minor treatment and 2 (13%) of 16 were admitted to hospital. The risk of accidental injury resulting from an absence seizure in person-years at risk was highest in juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (45%), moderate in juvenile AE (14%), and lowest in childhood AE (3%). Patients with AE had a greater number of overall accidental injuries than those with JRA (P<.04), but these differences were particularly marked for bicycle (P<.003) and car accidents (P<.05) and for mild head injuries (P=.05). Conclusions: Accidental injury is common in AE and usually occurs after anti-epileptic drug treatment is started. Injury prevention counseling is indicated both at diagnosis and follow-up. Bicycle accidents pose a special risk and helmet use should be mandatory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)929-932
Number of pages4
JournalArchives of neurology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Neurology


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