Conference Coverage

Frontal lobe epilepsy elevates seizure risk during pregnancy



– Seizure frequency increased during pregnancy for 53% of women with frontal lobe epilepsy, based on a study reported by Paula E. Voinescu, MD, PhD, at the annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society.

Jacob Remaly/MDedge News

Dr. Paula E. Voinescu

The single center study included data on 76 pregnancies in women with focal epilepsy –17 of them in patients with frontal lobe epilepsy – and 38 pregnancies in women with generalized epilepsy. Seizures were more frequent during pregnancy, compared with baseline, in 5.5% of women with generalized epilepsy, 22.6% of women with focal epilepsies, and 53.0% of women with frontal lobe epilepsy, said Dr. Voinescu, lead author of the study and a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“Frontal lobe epilepsy is known to be difficult to manage in general and often resistant to therapy, but it isn’t clear why the seizures got worse among pregnant women because the levels of medication in their blood was considered adequate. Until more research provides treatment guidance, doctors should carefully monitor their pregnant patients who have focal epilepsy to see if their seizures increase despite adequate blood levels and then adjust their medication if necessary,” she advised. “As we know from other research, seizures during pregnancy can increase the risk of distress and neurodevelopmental delays for the baby, as well as the risk of miscarriage.”

For the study, Dr. Voinescu and her colleagues analyzed prospectively collected clinical data from 99 pregnant women followed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital between 2013 and 2018.

The researchers excluded patients with abortions, seizure onset during pregnancy, poorly defined preconception seizure frequency, nonepileptic seizures, antiepileptic drug (AED) noncompliance, and pregnancies that were enrolled in other studies. The investigators documented patients’ seizure types and AED regimens and recorded seizure frequency during the 9 months before conception, during pregnancy, and 9 months postpartum. The researchers summed all seizures for each individual for each interval. They defined seizure frequency worsening as any increase above the preconception baseline, and evaluated differences between focal and generalized epilepsy and between frontal lobe and other focal epilepsies.

Increased seizure activity tended to occur in women on more than one AED, according to Dr. Voinescu. In women with frontal lobe epilepsy, seizure worsening during pregnancy was most likely to begin in the second trimester.

The gap in seizure frequency between the groups narrowed in the 9-month postpartum period. Seizures were more frequent during the postpartum period, compared with baseline, in 12.12% of women with generalized epilepsy, 20.14% of women with focal epilepsies, and 20.00% of women with frontal lobe epilepsy.

Future analyses will evaluate the influence of AED type and concentration and specific timing on seizure control during pregnancy and the postpartum period, Dr. Voinescu said. Future studies should also include measures of sleep, which may be a contributory mechanism to the differences found between these epilepsy types.

Dr. Voinescu reported receiving funding from the American Brain Foundation, the American Epilepsy Society, and the Epilepsy Foundation through the Susan Spencer Clinical Research Fellowship.

SOURCE: Voinescu PE et al. AES 2018, Abstract 3.236.

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