Definite SUDEP population in Bexar County, Texas: A 36-year data registry

Vahid Eslami, D. Kimberley Molina, Charles Ákos Szabó

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: Sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is one of the leading causes of mortality in epilepsy. In this study, cases of definite SUDEP are reported for Bexar County from a 36-year period. Methods: Death reports by Bexar County Medical Examiner (BCME) from 1983 to 2018 were reviewed to identify cases with definite SUDEP. The findings were based upon investigators’ reports, which included medical history, medication list, sleep position, time of death, and pathology reports. In addition to these potential risk factors, body mass indices (BMI), as well as heart, lung, and brain weights were compared between SUDEP victims with therapeutic vs subtherapeutic anti-seizure medication (ASM) levels. Results: Definite SUDEP was identified in 286 cases. The incidence of definite SUDEP was 0.51 ± 0.26/1000 person-years among PWE and 0.56 ± 0.29 per 100,000 person-years among the general population in Bexar County. The median age was 37 years old (interquartile range 27–48), and the majority were male (65%). While 171 (60%) people were prescribed at least one ASM, ASM levels were subtherapeutic in 239 cases (83.6%). Risk factors for SUDEP did not differ between SUDEP victims with therapeutic vs subtherapeutic ASM levels. While BMIs were only slightly increased in adherent vs nonadherent SUDEP victims, they were significantly associated with subtherapeutic ASM levels. Abnormal lung, heart, and brain weights were reported in 48 (16.8%), 67 (23.4%), and 43 (15.0%) SUDEP cases, respectively. Significance: This study is one of the largest autopsy-based registries of definite SUDEP. Subtherapeutic ASM levels measured in post-mortem blood samples suggest that nonadherence to ASM therapy was a leading risk factor for SUDEP. As BMI was elevated in this cohort, and obesity was significantly associated with subtherapeutic ASM levels, it may also be a risk factor for SUDEP. Case-controlled studies are needed to validate the specific role of obesity and related comorbidities in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108005
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Age
  • Anti-seizure medication
  • Definite SUDEP
  • Incidence
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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