New, Updated Guidelines for Comprehensive Epilepsy Care

The first updated guidelines for specialized epilepsy centers in a decade reflect a shift toward addressing patients’ overall well-being, including recommendations for genetic testing and counseling, mental health screening, and greater attention to special-needs populations. 

The guidelines — the first from the National Association of Epilepsy Centers (NAEC) in a decade — describe the comprehensive services and resources specialized epilepsy centers should provide to improve quality of care for people living with epilepsy.

“In addition to advances in medicine, there has been a shift toward addressing overall well-being beyond seizure management,” Fred Lado, MD, PhD, NAEC president and guideline panel co-chair, said in a news release. “This includes care for comorbid conditions like anxiety and depression, enhanced communication between the patient and care team, and addressing health disparities in the epilepsy community.

The guidance was developed by a panel of multidisciplinary experts, which is the first time that the NAEC has gone beyond the field of neurology to seek input from other medical specialists and allied health personnel, the panel noted. 

“Expanded guidelines are also sorely needed to help centers and hospitals obtain the resources to provide this level of comprehensive care,” said Lado, regional director of epilepsy and professor of neurology at Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in Hempstead, New York. 

An executive summary of the guidelines was published online on February 2 in Neurology. 

A Multidisciplinary Approach

Epilepsy is one of the most common chronic neurologic conditions worldwide, affecting an estimated 3.4 million people in the United States alone. Recurring seizures can be debilitating and, in some cases, life-threatening. 

To update epilepsy care guidelines, an expert panel of 41 stakeholders with diverse expertise evaluated the latest evidence and reached consensus on 52 recommendations spanning a range of services that make up high-quality epilepsy care. 

“This is exhibited in a greater emphasis on multidisciplinary care conferences, screening for comorbidities of epilepsy, and providing access to other specialty services in addition to the core epilepsy center components of outpatient care, diagnostic procedures, and epilepsy surgery,” they wrote. 

For the first time, the guidelines advise specialized epilepsy centers to offer genetic testing and counseling, provide more education and communication for patients, give greater attention to special-needs populations, employ a care coordinator to organize and facilitate multidisciplinary care, provide mental health screening, and address health disparities and inequities.

“All recommendations quickly reached consensus despite there being such a diverse panel of stakeholders, which emphasizes that the recommendations reflect the important elements of healthcare services that should be in place for an epilepsy center to provide the highest quality of care,” said Susan Arnold, MD, guideline panel co-chair and a pediatric epileptologist at Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.

“But epilepsy centers will need the resources to provide this comprehensive level of care. We hope the guidelines will help increase health insurer and institutional support and recognition of these recommendations,” Arnold added. 

The guidelines were funded by NAEC. Lado has no relevant disclosures. Arnold holds stock in Pfizer. A complete list of disclosures for the guideline panel is available with the original article. 

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