Conference Coverage

Employment is associated with high likelihood of declining epilepsy surgery



Candidates for epilepsy surgery who are employed are significantly more likely to decline surgery than are those who are unemployed, according to an analysis presented at the annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society. “Future work should confirm this finding prospectively, determine if it holds in other patient populations, and explore the decision to proceed with or decline epilepsy surgery from a patient-centered perspective,” said Vishal Mandge, MD, MPH, a clinical neurophysiology fellow at Duke University in Durham, N.C., and colleagues. “Identifying the role that factors such as the fear of losing employment due to complications from surgery and inability to take medical leave for an extended period of time play in the patient’s decision to proceed with epilepsy surgery may identify needs and suggest strategies to reduce barriers to this underutilized treatment.”

Although epilepsy surgery is known to be safe and effective, many surgical candidates with drug-resistant epilepsy decline to undergo the procedure. Prior investigations of the barriers to epilepsy surgery have focused on access to epilepsy centers that offer epilepsy surgery and patients’ reluctance to undergo presurgical evaluation. Dr. Mandge and colleagues instead set out to evaluate the association between various demographic, disease-specific, and epilepsy-evaluation variables and patients’ decision to decline surgery after they have been identified as candidates.

A retrospective case-control study

The investigators conducted a retrospective case-control study of patients who were discussed at the epilepsy surgery conference of a tertiary care hospital serving an urban New York community between Jan. 1, 2009, and June 30, 2017. They identified patients who were considered candidates for resective epilepsy surgery. Dr. Mandge and colleagues used the chi-squared test for nominal variables and analysis of variance for scale variables to evaluate these variables’ associations with a patient’s decision to decline epilepsy surgery. They also performed multivariate binary logistic regression to identify variables that predict a patient’s decision to decline surgery.

Dr. Mandge and colleagues identified 159 patients who were discussed during the study period. Of this group, 87 patients were eligible for resective epilepsy surgery after a thorough evaluation. Thirty-four (40%) of the eligible patients declined to undergo surgery. Approximately 20% of eligible patients were employed, and 70% of patients had a high school diploma or higher education.

Univariate analysis indicated that employment (odds ratio, 4.2), temporal lesion on MRI (OR, 0.35), temporal EEG localization (OR, 0.21), and temporal seizure onset zone (OR, 0.19) were independently and significantly associated with a patient’s decision to decline surgery. Multivariate logistic regression analysis indicated that current employment (OR, 7.5), the number of current antiepileptic drugs (AEDs; OR, 3.5), and concordance between seizure semiology, seizure onset on EEG, and imaging (OR, 0.08) were significantly associated with a patient’s decision to decline surgery.

Fear of unemployment may explain results

Dr. Alexis D. Boro, Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, New York

Dr. Alexis D. Boro

“With each additional AED, the patients were 3.5 times more likely to decline surgery, even after adjusting for other variables,” said Alexis D. Boro, MD, a neurologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York and one of the investigators. “My suspicion is that some of this reflects the burden of taking a lot of seizure medication. While the medications are much, much safer than seizures, and looking for and dealing with side effects is a lot of what we do, people often don’t feel great when they are taking multiple seizure medications. We counsel our patients that they should generally expect to stay on some seizure medications after surgery. The reason for surgery is to stop the seizures, not to stop the medications. We are often able to reduce medications after a period of time after surgery, and for many patients, this is one of the benefits.”

The association between employment and increased likelihood of declining surgery was unexpected and may not hold everywhere, said Dr. Boro. “We had expected the opposite result because we assumed that employed patients would be concerned that a seizure at work might result in loss of work. But it may be that many of our patients who are employed are concerned about losing their jobs if they miss work for a medical procedure. Some of our patients may be concerned about sharing medical information with their employers. For some of our patients, being employed may imply limited insurance coverage.”

The study was not supported by external funding, and the investigators did not report any disclosures.

SOURCE: Mandge VA et al. AES 2019, Abstract 1.362.

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