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Drugs Aging. 2003;20(11):791-803.

Seizures in elderly patients with dementia: epidemiology and management.

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Department of Neurology, The University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90073, USA.


Epileptic seizures occur in patients with dementia at a higher prevalence than among healthy elderly individuals. The incidence of seizures among patients with dementia varies with the aetiology of the dementing illness. In patients with Alzheimer's disease (the most common form of dementia), approximately 10-22% have at least one unprovoked seizure. Seizures usually occur in later stages of Alzheimer's disease, on average, > or =6 years into the course of the disease. Seizures in Alzheimer's disease are more likely to occur with early-onset disease, particularly if there is a familial presenilin I mutation. The incidence of seizures in other dementing diseases is less clear. There are special considerations regarding the management of seizures in the elderly with dementia. First, the presence of cognitive impairment may impede an accurate diagnosis of seizures. Clinicians may also mistake seizure manifestations for symptoms of the underlying dementia. Second, since most dementia patients are elderly, there are pharmacokinetic changes with aging that affect the use of antiepileptic drugs. Third, antiepileptic drugs have potential cognitive adverse effects that may worsen dementia. Although few studies are available, extrapolations from research in young people and elderly patients without dementia provide several recommendations for the management of seizures in patients with dementia: exclude symptomatic causes of seizures before committing to antiepileptic drug therapy; treat after a first seizure if there is evidence of focal neurological involvement or a risk of recurrent seizures; use antiepileptic drugs with minimal cognitive adverse effects, such as carbamazepine, valproic acid, gabapentin and lamotrigine; and use the lowest possible dosage and monitor antiepileptic drug levels, where possible.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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