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Childhood epilepsy rates 'declining'

More accurate GP diagnosis has reduced the incidence of children being recorded as having epilepsy, say UK researchers.

The study

UK researchers extracted data from The Health Improvement Network database on 344,718 children aged 14 years or less born during 1994 to 2008. Three indicators for epilepsy in children were developed to aid detection of a child diagnosed with epilepsy. Indicator one was a prescription of an antiepileptic drug repeated within a four-month period. Indicator two was a prescription of an antiepileptic drug and plus children with diagnostic codes for epilepsy. Indicator three involved both criteria from indicator two, plus children with recorded symptoms of epilepsy.

The findings

Using the most specific indicator, indicator one, cumulative incidence was 33% lower in children born in the period 2003 to 2005 than in children born in the period 1994-1996. Between 2001 and 2008 the decline each year in annual incidence was 4% for indicator one, 6% for indicator two and 9% for indicator three.

What does it mean for GPs?

The authors noted a number of factors that may have contributed to these findings, including a possible ‘increasing reluctance by GPs to label a child with epilepsy when the diagnosis is uncertain,’ and an ‘improved specificity in epilepsy diagnosis.’

Archives of Disease in Childhood 2013, online 23 January

 

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