Quantifying heart rate variability (HRV) may help stratify the risk of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) in patients with epilepsy.
Why this matters
In patients with epilepsy, a common cause of mortality is SUDEP, which is often triggered by nocturnal tonic-clonic seizures (TCS).
The risk of SUDEP is increased by TCS because TCS can impair cardiorespiratory and autonomic dysfunction; however, there is currently no method of stratifying an individual’s risk for SUDEP.
HRV is an accepted measure of neural cardiac control, where low HRV is strongly predictive of an increased risk of sudden death in patients with heart disease.
Reduced interictal HRV has also been associated with drug-resistant, chronic epilepsy, and can predict a more severe outcome after epilepsy surgery.
Therefore, altered HRV may be a risk factor for SUDEP, which is yet to be validated.