For some people who have epilepsy, the risk of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is a significant concern. SUDEP occurs when a person with epilepsy is otherwise healthy and unexpectedly dies from complications presumed to result from epilepsy. The death is not a result of drowning, trauma, or even a seizure, and no conclusive information can be detected from an autopsy. Most instances of SUDEP happen during or right after a seizure. Some possible factors include:

  • Breathing

A seizure may cause a person to pause their breathing. If these gaps in breathing are too long, the oxygen in the blood can be reduced to a critical level. Also, during a seizure, a person’s airway sometimes may get covered or obstructed, leading to suffocation.

  • Cardiac Complications

Rarely, a seizure may cause a dangerous heart rhythm or even heart failure.

  • Other Factors

SUDEP may result from more than one reason or combination of reasons.

Risk of SUDEP for Children

Children who have frequent seizures or epilepsy that is uncontrolled are at highest risk for SUDEP.

What Can You do to Reduce Your Child’s Risk of SUDEP?

Speak to your child’s physician about the risks of SUDEP. Another important step in ensuring your child’s safety is to make sure they take their seizure medication(s) exactly as prescribed. Other possible steps you can take to reduce your child’s risk of SUDEP may include

  • If you know what they are, avoid the things that trigger your child’s seizures.
  • Consider obtaining a seizure alert monitor 
  • Ensure your child gets an adequate amount of sleep.