Stroke - the most important cause of the newly diagnosed epilepsy in the elderly
- MARINA ROJE-BEDEKOVI, IVAN MIKULA, LENKA KOPAEVI, DEMARIN VIDA, VANJA BA-KES
UNLABELLED Epilepsy currently affects 1.0%-1.5% of elderly population, and its prevalence and incidence rise as the number of old people increases worldwide. Antiepileptic drugs are the mainstay of treatment. Their phrarmacokinetics differ in old age and polypharmacotherapy often leads to drug interactions. Many of the affected have concomitant cardiovascular, metabolic, cerebrovascular, neurodegenerative or neoplastic diseases. Antiepileptic drugs add to the burden of medication and may produce neurotoxicity or cognitive impairment. PURPOSE To give an overview of epidemiologic data and pharmacological management of epilepsy in the elderly. It is a common and important clinical problem. The increased awareness of this phenomenon has led to better understanding of the etiology of seizures and complexity of the pharmacokinetics in the elderly. METHOD Data of 246 patients with epilepsy admitted to our Department during the year 2001 were retrospectively analyzed. RESULTS Forty-three (17.4%) patients were older than 65. Thirty-two (74.4%) patients, 20 male and 12 female, had a newly diagnosed epilepsy. The etiology of seizures included cerebrovascular diseases in 22 (68.8%), trauma in 4 (12.5%), primary tumors in 3 (9.4%) and metastases in 3 patients (9.4%). The initial antiepileptic drug (AED) was phenytoin in 15 (46.9%), carbamazepine in 14 (43.8%), carbamazepine plus phenytoin in 2 (6.3%), valproic acid in 1 (3.1%), diazepam in 3 (9.4%) and oxazepam in 2 (6.3%) patients. Later, during follow-up, lamotrigine was introduced in 4 (12.5%) patients as a monotherapy and in 3 (9.4%) patients as add-on therapy. Topiramate was introduced in 1 patient as monotherapy and add-on therapy each. Gabapentin was introduced in one patient as add-on therapy. CONCLUSION Cerebrovascular disease is the most common cause of new-onset seizures in the elderly. Pharmacological treatment is complicated by the age related changes of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics and drug-drug interactions. Phenytoin and sodium valproate are the first choice agents for generalized tonic-clonic seizures, with carbamazepine preferred for partial seizures. The newer AEDs, such as gabapentin and lamotrigine, also warrant some consideration as the first-line agents because of their efficacy and favorable effect profile. The optimal management of epilepsy requires rapid investigation, accurate diagnosis, effective therapy, education and assured support.