Swansea University study shows impact of Covid and epilepsy

Published: March 08 2024
Last updated: March 26 2024

Grace Wood | The research into Covid and epilepsy was supported by Epilepsy Action

People with epilepsy had a higher risk of being hospitalised with CovidPeople with epilepsy had a higher risk of being hospitalised with Covid and of dying from Covid, according to new research from Swansea University and the University of Edinburgh.

The study found that people with epilepsy had a 60% higher rate of hospital admission with Covid and 33% higher rate of death.

The research was supported by Epilepsy Action and funded by Health and Care Research Wales.

It focused on the first 15 months of the pandemic, from 1 March 2020 to 30 June 2021.

It followed 27,000 people with epilepsy in Wales. There were 933 admissions to hospital for Covid and 158 deaths.

Epilepsy affects around 30,000 people in Wales.

The study had a control group of 135,000 people who matched on other key criteria – sex, age, other health conditions, socioeconomic status – but who did not have epilepsy.

Researchers said this allowed them to isolate epilepsy as a factor and see some of the effects of Covid on people living with epilepsy in Wales in the early stages of the pandemic.

The research was based on anonymised health data for the Welsh population, which is collected and stored at Swansea University.

The researchers found there were fewer emergency department attendances, hospital admissions and outpatient appointments for people with epilepsy. It also said there did not seem to be an increase in the most severe form of seizure (status epilepticus) during the pandemic.

Wales manager at Epilepsy Action Cymru, Jan Paterson, was one of the authors of the study. She said: “We were very pleased to work with the researchers from Swansea University on this important report.

“With the increasing pressure on post-pandemic health services and workforce, it is important to ensure that sufficient resources are in place to deal with the effects and implications of these findings.”

The research was led by consultant neurologist and honorary clinical associate professor at Swansea University Medical School, Dr Owen Pickrell. He said: “The Covid-19 pandemic had significant effects on healthcare and it is important to try to understand its full implications for people living with long-term conditions such as epilepsy.

“People with epilepsy were at higher risk of Covid hospitalisations and deaths, but it is not clear exactly why.  Further research is needed in this area.”

Earlier this year people with epilepsy were encouraged to get a Covid booster vaccine, find out more here.