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Arch Dis Child. 2018 Nov;103(11):1042-1047. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2017-313944. Epub 2018 Apr 28.

Trends in epilepsy admissions in children, 1981-2013: population-based observational study using the Scottish national hospital discharge database.

Author information

Muir Maxwell Epilepsy Centre, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
Department of Paediatric Neurosciences, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh, UK.
Edinburgh Clinical Trials Unit, Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.
Information Services Division, NHS National Services Scotland, Edinburgh, UK.



To examine trends in epilepsy admissions in children from 1981 to 2013.


Repeated cross-sectional, population-based study.




We identified admissions among children between 1981 and 2013 inclusive. Epilepsy admissions were identified from the Scottish national hospital discharge database by using relevant diagnostic codes. Primary epilepsy admissions (PEAs) were those with epilepsy as the primary discharge diagnosis, or convulsions as the primary diagnosis but with epilepsy as secondary diagnosis. All other epilepsy admissions were secondary epilepsy admissions (SEAs).


Trends in annual epilepsy and non-epilepsy admission rates, as well as sociodemographic, clinical characteristics, length of stay and readmissions of epilepsy admissions.


57 031 epilepsy and 3 863 809 non-epilepsy admissions were available for analysis. Overall, epilepsy and non-epilepsy admissions increased, with a greater increase in epilepsy admissions (interaction Χ2 test statistic 252, p<0.00001). Elective epilepsy admissions, unlike elective non-epilepsy admissions, continually increased, but emergency epilepsy admissions increased until 2000 and showed only minor fluctuations thereafter. Increase in SEAs was more marked than PEAs (interaction Χ2 test statistic 627, p<0.0001). 48% of epilepsy admissions were to children's hospitals. No substantial trends were apparent in age, gender or deprivation distribution of epilepsy admissions. There was a clear trend towards shorter length of stay.


Childhood epilepsy admissions are increasing, at a faster rate than non-epilepsy admissions, and have changed towards shorter, more elective admissions. Many will not be to children's hospitals, and the primary reason will often not be because of epilepsy/convulsions. More, not less, epilepsy resources are needed.


admissions; children; epilepsy; population-based; trends

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: The study was funded by the Muir Maxwell Trust, which has provided financial support to help establish the Muir Maxwell Epilepsy Centre at the University of Edinburgh.

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