New Research Sheds Light on Potential Role of Febrile Seizures and Other Risk Factors in Sudden Deaths in Children

ROSELAND, N.J. -- The SUDC Foundation highlights newly-published research from the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) that identifies an increased rate of febrile seizures among children who die suddenly, both with and without explanation. The authors of the article report the need for more research to identify febrile seizure patients at higher risk, as well as other potential risk factors of sudden death in children.

The published research, entitled "Sudden Deaths in Children: Potential Role of Febrile Seizures and Other Risk Factors," examined 391 cases of both Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC) and sudden, explained deaths in children between the ages of 1 and 6 years from 2001-2017. Among those studied, 28.8 percent of SUDC cases and 22.1 percent of sudden, explained cases also had a reported history of febrile seizures. In comparison, two to five percent of the general population experience febrile seizures. These findings mark the first time a significant increase in febrile seizures was found among sudden, explained child deaths.

"Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood remains a tragic disorder that claims far too many lives and has been the subject of far too little research and public awareness," said Orrin Devinsky, M.D., of New York University Langone Health.

"This study has brought us closer to understanding the causes of some SUDC cases," said Daniel Friedman, M.D., of New York University Langone Health. "In the past decade, there have significant advances in understanding the mechanisms of seizure-related sudden death in people with epilepsy through animal models. This study provides the rational for extending these models to help identify risk biomarkers and preventative strategies for SUDC as well."

"I hope our analysis provides some reassurance to families who lost children to SUDC in that we did not identify a single case of unexplained sibling death," said Laura Gould Crandall, lead author and Executive Director and Co-founder of the SUDC Foundation. "To improve our understanding of SUDC, we need population-based studies where we examine cases that better reflect the general population and are informed by standardized investigations with additional testing, including genetic testing."

SUDC is a category of death in children over the age of one year which remains unexplained after a thorough investigation and autopsy. Most often, SUDC occurs in otherwise healthy children during sleep. At least 400 children are lost to SUDC in the United States every year.

The research also indicated the children in the study were over four times more likely to die during sleep in the SUDC cases as opposed to the sudden, explained cases. And none of the children studied had a sibling who also died prematurely from SUDC.

The full article will be available at 11 a.m. EDT on Friday, April 26, 2019.

To learn more about SUDC and the SUDC Foundation, please visit https://sudc.org/.

Additional information on "Sudden Deaths in Children: Potential Role of Febrile Seizures and Other Risk Factors": Data for this study was collected from 622 family members of children who died suddenly and unexpectedly and voluntarily registered with the SUDC Foundation. The family members provided the data evaluated through a comprehensive interview on medical and social histories and circumstances of death and forensic evaluations revealed an explained or unexplained cause of death (SUDC). Over 59 percent were male and the average age at death was 24.9 months.

About the SUDC Foundation:
The SUDC Foundation is the only organization worldwide whose purpose is to promote awareness, advocate for research and support those affected by SUDC. The SUDC Foundation provides all services at no cost to families.

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