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Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy,[1] or SUDEP is a term used when a person with epilepsy suddenly dies, and the reason for the death results from unexplained respiratory failure or cardiac arrest after seizures. SUDEP is sometimes referred to as "Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy", as the cause of SUDEP is unknown. Post mortem examination usually reveals no abnormalities in victims. Of those who die from SUDEP, it is most common in people who have generalised tonic-clonic seizures, especially in young adults age 20-50. The average age of those dying from SUDEP is estimated to be between 28–35 years, and SUDEP very rarely occurs in children. The most important 'risk factors' seem to be poor seizure control, and seizures occurring during sleep.

Research has estimated that approximately 50,000 people die each year from status epilecticus (prolonged seizures), SUDEP, and other seizure-related causes. SUDEP accounts for 8-17% of deaths in people with epilepsy[2]. Roughly 1 in 100 sufferers of severe epilepsy die of SUDEP every year[3]. For sufferers of mild idiopathic epilepsy (epilepsy of unknown cause), the figure drops to 1 in 1,000 per year.

The non-profit organization Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE) has led efforts in granting research to prevent and find the cause of SUDEP[4].


  1. ^ Tomson T, Nashef L, Ryvlin P (November 2008). "Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy: current knowledge and future directions". Lancet Neurology 7 (11): 1021–31. doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(08)70202-3. PMID 18805738.  
  2. ^ eMedicine - Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy : Article by Shahin Nouri
  3. ^ CURE: Epilepsy Facts
  4. ^ CURE: Current Recipients

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