Health & wellbeing

A recent study conducted by Helsinki University Hospital (HUS) shows that epileptic seizures are a significant burden on emergency services and hospital emergency departments in the Helsinki metropolitan area. The research, published in the European Journal of Neurology, revealed that only a small fraction of patients ultimately required medication or basic life support treatment.

Epileptic seizures are a common reason for emergency calls and visits to emergency departments. The study combined data from emergency medical services, hospital emergency departments, and hospitalization records in the Helsinki metropolitan area and surrounding municipalities for suspected epileptic seizures in individuals over 16 years old. The unique data set was collected over four years from the emergency medical services and information systems of HUS and the City of Helsinki.

During the study period, there were over 14,000 emergency medical service calls related to suspected epileptic seizures, accounting for 3.3% of all emergency medical service calls. Emergency call center operators and paramedics identified seizure symptoms in three out of four cases.

The study found that the burden of epileptic seizures was greatest on emergency medical services, with 333 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. However, in nearly 40% of cases, patients did not require transport to the hospital or declined it themselves.

Despite this, there were over 11,000 visits to hospital emergency departments related to epileptic seizures. When adjusted for population, the burden on hospital emergency departments was lower than that on emergency medical services, with 266 visits per 100,000 inhabitants. Moreover, for patients who required hospitalization, the burden decreased to less than a third of that on emergency medical services, with 107 hospitalizations per 100,000 inhabitants.

Nearly two-thirds of patients treated for epileptic seizures were men, with an average age of approximately 50 years.

Less than 8% of hospitalized patients required intensive care. The healthcare chain resulted in an annual cost of €6.8 million, which corresponds to 0.5% of the specialty care costs in the study area.

The study's lead author, Dr. Leena Kämppi, a neurologist at HUS Neurocenter, stated that the findings highlight the need for more information on the recognition of epileptic seizures. She emphasized the importance of directing healthcare resources appropriately and providing urgent care to patients who require it. Additionally, identifying patients who do not require treatment but have a typical epilepsy-related seizure is essential.

In conclusion, the study provides valuable insights into the burden of epileptic seizures on emergency services and hospital emergency departments. With appropriate identification and triage, healthcare resources can be directed towards patients who require urgent care, while reducing the burden on the emergency medical services and hospital emergency departments.