Study Finds High Mortality Rate Among People With Both Autism and Epilepsy

Filed under: Medical Conditions, In The News

epilepsy and autism brain scans

People who are both epileptic and autistic have an 800 percent higher chance of dying than people who just have one or the other. Credit: Getty Images

Epilepsy and autism. Either condition, by itself, is a raw deal. Together, however, they can be deadly.

BusinessWeek reports people with both conditions face an 800 percent higher chance of dying than people who have just one or the other.

Researchers reached this grim assessment after studying brain tissue donated to the Autism Speaks Autism Tissue Program. According to BusinessWeek, they found that 39 percent of the donors with autism also had epilepsy. That's a lot higher than the estimated rate of epilepsy among most people with autism.

Taking data from the California State Department of Developmental Services, researchers found the prognosis for people with both conditions is usually tragic.

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

"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," Tuchman adds.

Clara Lajonchere, vice president of clinical programs at Autism Speaks, tells BusinessWeek that sudden, unexpected or unexplained death in autism is often, but not always related to epilepsy.

"We need to use caution when interpreting these data," Lajonchere adds. "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."

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.