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Drops in blood oxygen levels may be key to sudden death in some epilepsy patients

d with significant drops in blood-oxygen levels and that males are more likely than females to experience dangerously low levels of oxygen during seizures.

The findings support the idea that some cases of SUDEP may be caused by a lack of brain signaling that makes the patient keep breathing, though scientists need to do more research before they know for sure, Seyal said.

The study is important, Seyal said, because it suggests that hospitals that monitor inpatients for seizures should use both continuous blood-oxygen monitoring that sets off alarms when blood levels are too low and around-the-clock monitoring by staff or relatives.

In a hospital setting, blood-oxygen levels below 85 percent require intervention, such as giving supplemental oxygen, turning the patient on his side or suctioning the patient's airway, to help the patient breathe.

Patients hospitalized for seizure monitoring in the UC Davis Comprehensive Epilepsy Program must have a relative or friend with them around the clock who can recognize their seizures and summon assistance when they occur, in addition to constant blood-oxygen monitoring.

Some medical centers also use video monitors that are continuously monitored by hospital staff. But many do not employ this kind of close monitoring.

"Our data show that it's important that respiratory parameters be closely monitored in the hospital," Seyal said.

The best strategy to reduce the likelihood of SUDEP is to promptly and effectively control patients' seizures, Seyal said.

Most seizures can be stopped with medication. Patients with seizures poorly controlled with medication often are candidates for surgery, which can have a high success rate. To perform the surgery, however, patients must be observed in the hospital, their medication must be reduced and seizures allowed to take place.

"This is the only way we can pinpoint the region of the brain responsible for the seizur

Contact: Phyllis Brown
University of California - Davis - Health System

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