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Don't ignore that seizure, it may be fatal

delhi Updated: Aug 02, 2010 02:14 IST
Rhythma Kaul

In a study conducted by an All India Institute of Medical Sciences' (AIIMS) faculty member on 96 cases of Status Epilepticus—a life-threatening condition where a patient is in fits for more than five minutes—80 per cent were unaware that they had a disease.

Dr Manjari Tripathi, associate professor of neurology at AIIMS, independently conducted the study between December

Seizure numbers

10.5 per cent: Mortality rate in India due to Status Epilepticus

15 per cent: Mortality rate in developing countries

15 per cent: Mortality rate in developed countries

2006 and February 2008, which was published in the medical journal Seizure in its March 2010 issue. The longest seizure attack that she came across was in a person who had been in fits for three consecutive days before reaching hospital.

"Because of a lot of stigma and myth is attached to seizures in our country, people don't consider it a disease. There's a lot of ignorance attached with the disease and through my study I intend to spread the essential awareness," said Dr Tripathi, who sees about three such cases every day in her OPD. On an average more than 75 per cent of these cases survive due to timely medical aid.

Under typical circumstances seizures do not last for more than two minutes, and the person gets back to his normal self within an hour of the attack. But if the movements continue with the person being unconscious for five minutes or more, the condition is called Status Epilepticus, which is a medical emergency and the person needs to be rushed to hospital as soon as possible. The longer the fit lasts, the more are the chances of a person's brain suffering permanent irreversible damage even leading to death.

Status Eplepticus is a medical emergency similar to an accident case. A person can die if medical aid doesn't reach on time, and even if the patient survives, due to severe damage to the brain he will be just like a vegetable. "If medicines are administered on time, the disease is quite a treatable and preventable," said Dr Tripathi.

On an average 30 per cent people of Status Epilepticus succumb to the disease for want of treatment, and with proper medicines, the fatality could be reduced to 10 per cent.

As per the study, a majority of those suffering from the disease, who made it to hospital, were young men in their mid-life and earning members of the family. Apart from not being aware of the disease, and hence, not reaching hospital on time, infections of the brain, or missed medication of epilepsy due to non-availability or non-affordability of drugs, is some of the causes for rise in mortality. "Due to lack of awareness, fits may not be recognised as medical emergency," said Dr Tripathi.