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Autism, epilepsy together up death risk
Sun, 17 Apr 2011 13:00:50 GMT
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Individuals suffering from both autism and epilepsy are placed at a greater risk of dying than those who have autism alone, a new study finds.

Autism Speaks Autism Tissue Program (ATP) researchers, who examined data gathered from the California State Department of Developmental Services, found that people with both autism and epilepsy have an 800 percent higher mortality rate than those with autism alone.

Moreover, a study on the donated brain tissues showed that 39 percent of the autistic donors had experienced epilepsy, indicating that the estimated rate of epilepsy is relatively higher among the general autistic population, the researchers wrote in the Journal of Child Neurology.

According to the Autism Speaks, it is well established that epilepsy is a major medical disorder that is often co-morbid with autism in as many as 30 percent of children. As many as one in every 20 children diagnosed with autism by the age 3 may have experienced epilepsy or develop the condition later on in life.

As noted by the ATP more than a decade ago, sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP) sufferers had been identified as a cause of death in autistic individuals. There is, however, relatively little known about the specific risk factors accounting for reported higher-than-expected rate of mortality in this population.

"This study highlights the importance of early identification of epilepsy in children with autism and of autism in children with epilepsy," said Roberto Tuchman, pediatric neurologist at Miami Children's Hospital and member of the Autism Speaks Scientific Advisory Council.

"The findings of this study should motivate the autism and epilepsy communities to increase their understanding of the risk factors and common mechanisms that can lead to epilepsy, autism or both epilepsy and autism. Understanding these early determinants will allow for the development of effective interventions and preventive measures and ultimately better outcomes for children with autism and epilepsy," he added.

"Sudden, unexpected or unexplained death in autism is often, but not always related to epilepsy and we need to use caution when interpreting these data," Clara Lajonchere, vice president of clinical programs at Autism Speaks, added in the news release.

"These findings are important for understanding risk factors that may contribute to early death in individuals with autism and further underscore the need for more accurate and accessible records on cause of death in this population."

SJM/PKH
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