Natural course of treated epilepsy and medico-social outcomes. Turku studies. Part II


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Journal of Epileptology

Foundation of Epileptology

Subject: Medicine


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VOLUME 24 , ISSUE 1 (June 2016) > List of articles

Natural course of treated epilepsy and medico-social outcomes. Turku studies. Part II

Matti Sillanpää *

Keywords : childhood-onset epilepsy, drug-resistant epilepsy, long-term outcome, natural course of epilepsy, population-based cohort

Citation Information : Journal of Epileptology. Volume 24, Issue 1, Pages 25-39, DOI:

License : (CC BY 4.0)

Received Date : 07-January-2016 / Accepted: 18-January-2016 / Published Online: 25-January-2016



Introduction. Population-based data on the prognosis of childhood-onset epilepsy were almost nonexistent in the 1960s. This prompted me to start an epidemiological prospective study on children with epilepsy.

Aim. To study the medical and social outcome of children with epilepsy.

Methods. The most important personal data on the natural course and outcome were reviewed and compared with the relevant data of other investigators.

Results and discussion. The natural course of treated epilepsy is remitting, uninterrupted by relapse (in 48%); a remitting-relapsing course (interrupted by relapses, in terminal remission) (19%); worsening course (early or late remission followed by drug-resistant epilepsy) (14%); and never in ≥5-year remission (drug resistance) (19%) The medical and social outcomes based on my unique, five decades followed cohort show that most subjects are in 10-year remission without medications, which is the definition of resolved epilepsy. Normal or subnormal IQ, non-symptomatic etiology, and low seizure frequency both in the first year of AED treatment and prior to medication appear to be clinical predictors of cure in childhood-onset epilepsy. Subjects with 1-year remission during the first five years form onset of treatment have more than 10-fold chance for entering 5-year terminal remission vs those who have no 1-year remission during the first five years. Even about one fourth of difficult-to-treat subjects become seizure free on medication and more than half of them enter one or more 5-year remissions. Epilepsy has a substantial impact on quality of life even in those who are seizure free off medication for many years and particularly those not in remission or in remission but still on medication.

Conclusions. The prognosis is excellent for medical and social outcome. The successful outcome is confirmed by several longitudinal studies from recent decades. Good response to early drug therapy does not necessarily guarantee a favorable seizure outcome, and even a late good response may still predict a successful prognosis. Our life-cycle study is being continued and targets to answer the question whether or not childhood-onset epilepsy is a risk factor for premature and/or increased incidence of mental impairment and dementia.

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