Sepsis Linked to Elevated Risk for New-Onset Epilepsy in Young Individuals

Young girl in ICU
Patients with sepsis, particularly younger patients and those with CKD, may be at an elevated risk for new-onset epilepsy.

Patients with sepsis, particularly younger patients and those with chronic kidney disease, may be at an elevated risk for new-onset epilepsy, according to research presented at the 2019 American Epilepsy Society Annual Meeting, held December 6-10, 2019, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Researchers conducted a population-based, retrospective, matched-cohort study to estimate the risk for new-onset epilepsy among patients hospitalized in the intensive care unit (ICU) for sepsis treatment. Researchers collected data from the patients in the Discharge Abstract Database between 2010 and 2015.

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In total, data from 143,892 patients were collected. Patients with sepsis were at a significantly higher risk for epilepsy (hazard ratio [HR] 1.44; 95% CI, 1.15-1.80), however, this risk correlation was not significant after investigators controlled for risk for death (HR 1.16; 95% CI, 0.93-1.45). A bivariate analysis of sepsis survivors was also conducted; results indicated that younger age, chronic kidney disease, and congestive heart failure at baseline were all significantly associated with epilepsy.

Further multivariable analysis also indicated that sepsis in young patients and those with chronic kidney disease were significant risk factors for epilepsy (HR, 0.97 and 2.25, respectively).

“These findings indicate that sepsis may be an unrecognized epilepsy risk factor,” the researchers concluded. “Possible mechanisms include damage to the blood-brain barrier as a result of renal dysfunction, persisting inflammation after the acute episode, and increased risk of cardiovascular events following sepsis.”


Antaya TC, Allen BN, Richard L, Shariff SZ, Saposnik G, Burneo JG. Epilepsy risk among survivors of intensive care unit hospitalization for sepsis. Presented at: The American Epilepsy Society 2019 Annual Meeting; December 6-10, 2019; Baltimore, MD. Abstract 2.387.