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Eur Neurol. 2006;55(2):74-9. Epub 2006 Mar 24.

Epilepsy and obstructive sleep apnea.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University Hospital Bern, Switzerland.


A few publications documented the coexistence of epilepsy and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The extent, nature, and clinical relevance of this association remain poorly understood. We retrospectively reviewed the database of our sleep center to identify patients with both sleep apnea and epilepsy. Characteristics of epilepsy, sleep history, presence of excessive daytime sleepiness [Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS)] and polysomnographic data were assessed. The effect of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) on seizure reduction was prospectively analyzed after a median interval of 26 months (range: 2-116 months) from the diagnosis of OSA. OSA was found in 29 epilepsy patients (25 men and 4 women) with a median age of 56 years (range: 37-79). The median apnea hypopnea index was 33 (range: 10-85), the oxygen desaturation index was 12 (range 0-92), and 52% of the patients had an ESS score >10. In 27 patients, epilepsy appeared 1 month to 44 years prior to the diagnosis of OSA. In 21 patients, the appearance of OSA symptoms coincided with a clear increase in seizure frequency or the first appearance of a status epilepticus. Treatment with CPAP was continued with good compliance in 12 patients and led to a significant reduction of both ESS scores and seizure frequency in 4 patients. Our data suggest the importance of considering diagnosis and treatment of OSA in epilepsy patients with poor seizure control and/or reappearance of seizures after a seizure-free interval.

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