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Elderly seizure patients are three times as likely to suffer a stroke

Elderly patients who suffer unexplained seizures are almost three times as likely to suffer a stroke, according to a study.

The researchers said seizures were an important 'preventive opportunity' for GPs to test and treat risk factors for stroke to lower the risk. GP experts have advocated the advice as good practice.

Study co-author Professor Raymond Tallis, deputy-chair of the national service framework for older people's stroke task group, identified 4,709 patients from the General Practice Research Database who were aged over 60 and who had suffered an unexplained seizure.

The results, presented at last month's British Geriatrics Society autumn meeting in London, showed 10 per cent of patients suffering an unexplained seizure subsequently had a stroke compared with 4.4 per cent of age-matched, seizure-free patients.

The figures indicated patients who had suffered a seizure were 2.89 times more likely to suffer a stroke.

Professor Tallis, professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Manchester, was surprised by the results. He said GPs should regard unexplained seizures in elderly patients as a serious signal that they could have cerebrovascular disease and screen them for risk factors such as hypertension, atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as smoking and alcohol abuse.

Professor Tallis said: 'Nearly 40 per cent of seizures occurring for the first time appear in people over 60. This is your chance to get in there before anything catastrophic happens, like a stroke. A seizure may represent an important preventive opportunity.'

Dr David Campbell, a member of the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network group for dysphagia and stroke, said the study advocated evaluating stroke risk in

elderly patients with unexplained seizures.

Dr Campbell, a GP in Irvine, Ayrshire, said: 'We're taught seizures in older people are more likely to be due to an underlying organic problem. I wouldn't have thought of the risk of cerebrovascular disease.'

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