WEDNESDAY, April 20 (HealthDay News) -- Many people with autism also have epilepsy that doesn't respond to treatment, a new study suggests.
Researchers looked at the medical records of 127 children and adults aged 3 to 49 with autism who had had one or more seizures. The patients had been referred to the NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center in New York City over a 20-year period because they had also been diagnosed with epilepsy or it was suspected they might have epilepsy, said study lead author Dr. Orrin Devinsky.
About 34 percent of the patients were found to have treatment-resistant epilepsy, meaning their seizures continued despite medications. A few also underwent surgery -- vagus nerve stimulation, in which an electrical device is implanted to stimulate a nerve that runs near the carotid artery of the neck.
Another 28 percent were seizure-free after treatment.
For the other 39 percent of patients, researchers didn't have enough information to determine if their seizures were treatment-resistant or not.
"This highlights that epilepsy is common in autism, and in a large percentage of cases, the epilepsy is treatment-resistant," said Devinksy, a professor of neurology, neurosurgery and psychiatry at NYU Langone School of Medicine and director of the NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center.
"Epilepsy is a bad disorder. Recurrent seizures can injure the brain, can cause structural damage to the brain and can be deadly over time," he added.
The findings are published in the May issue of the journal Epilepsia.
The researchers found other differences between those who had treatment-resistant epilepsy and others with autism who'd experienced seizures.
Overall, the average age of the first seizure was 8, according to the study. But the medical records suggest that patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy tended to have their seizures start
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