New-onset seizure survey of epilepsy centers in the United States


Department of Pediatric Neurology, Advocate Children's Hospital


OBJECTIVES: Children presenting with new-onset seizures have variable access to resources and may not receive timely and adequate treatment. Some may experience adverse consequences when not evaluated in a timely manner by appropriate medical providers. Consequences can be especially severe for children under the age of two and for children who have psychiatric, cognitive, and behavioral comorbidities. There are no published data on how children with new-onset seizure are evaluated and treated across the US. Our goal was to gain insight into how different epilepsy centers across the country evaluate and treat children with new-onset seizures.

METHODS: We conducted a survey of Epilepsy Centers in the US that are part of the Pediatric Epilepsy Research Consortium (PERC) and focused on children presenting with new-onset seizures; PERC is a group of pediatric epilepsy providers and researchers who participate in collaborative multicenter research in pediatric epilepsy with the goal of improving outcomes in children with pediatric epilepsy. The questionnaire was developed by the authors of this study. It was designed to provide a descriptive assessment of the consistency and variability in how patients with new-onset seizure are evaluated and treated at epilepsy sites across the country. The questionnaire was designed to assure all points of interest were explored. The questions were aimed at describing access to care, how care is delivered, whether centers prioritize based on clinical presentation and/or age, and availability of resources. The survey was sent to 80 epileptologists at 42 different Epilepsy Centers that are part of PERC.

RESULTS: Respondents included 29 pediatric epileptologists representing 24 unique centers. In the cases where there were multiple respondents from each center, response of the most senior epileptologist was used. It is possible that the senior epileptologist may have not known about the center as much as a junior epileptologist, but this was used to establish consistencies among centers with multiple respondents. Results showed that 30% of centers had a dedicated new-onset seizure clinic. The median time for children to be seen was two to four weeks, and 12% reported that it takes more than five weeks until the patient is seen. There was a trend toward centers with new-onset seizure clinic having less wait times. Most centers identified lack of adequate care based on insurance coverage, resources, long wait times, and long travel times.

SIGNIFICANCE: Most centers (70%) do not have a dedicated new-onset seizure clinic. Children presenting with new-onset seizures often do not receive timely and comprehensive care because of limitations in resources and lack of established standard of care. Standardizing care for patients presenting with new-onset seizures has not yet occurred in the US. Many centers do not have a screening process and employ staff other than physicians or nurses for screening and triaging patients. This study shows that having a neurologist or epileptologist in charge of triaging does not reduce wait times. This survey revealed that there is substantial variability in how these patients are evaluated. Although this study shows a trend for epilepsy centers with new-onset seizure clinic having less wait times, even when there is a new-onset seizure clinic, wait times can be greater than five weeks. Overall, however, a new-onset seizure clinic may be an effective way to improve access to timely and efficient care for these patients.

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