Conference Coverage

Significant racial disparities persist in status epilepticus


AT AES 2022

New research shows stark racial and ethnic discrepancies in health care outcomes for patients with status epilepticus. Investigators found that among Black patients with status epilepticus, the hospitalization rate was twice that of their White counterparts. Other findings reveal age and income disparities.

“The results suggest that racial minorities, those with a lower income, and the elderly are an appropriate target to improve health outcomes and reduce health inequality,” said Gabriela Tantillo Sepúlveda, MD, assistant professor of neurology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society.

An examination of outcomes

Status epilepticus is associated with high rates of morbidity and mortality. Disparities in epilepsy care have previously been described, but little attention has been paid to the contribution of disparities to status epilepticus care and associated outcomes.

Researchers used 2010-2019 data from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database covering a cross-section of hospitalizations in 48 states and the District of Columbia. From relevant diagnostic codes, they calculated status epilepticus prevalence as the rate per 10,000 hospitalizations and stratified this by demographics.

Over the study period, investigators identified 486,861 status epilepticus hospitalizations, most (71.3%) at urban teaching hospitals.

Status epilepticus prevalence was highest for non-Hispanic Black patients, at 27.3, followed by non-Hispanic others, at 16.1, Hispanic patients, at 15.8, and non-Hispanic-White patients, at 13.7 (P < .01).

The finding that Black patients had double the rate as White patients was “definitely surprising,” said Dr. Tantillo Sepúlveda.

Research over the past 20 years revealed similar disparities related to status epilepticus, “so it’s upsetting that these disparities have persisted. Unfortunately, we still have a lot of work to do to reduce health inequalities,” she said.

The investigators found that the prevalence of status epilepticus was higher in the lowest-income quartile, compared with the highest (18.7 vs. 14; P < .01).

Need for physician advocacy

Unlike previous studies, this research assessed various interventions in different age groups and showed that the likelihood of intubation, tracheostomy, gastrostomy, and in-hospital mortality increased with age.

For example, compared with the reference group (patients aged 18-39 years), the odds of intubation were 1.22 (95% confidence interval, 1.16-1.27) for those aged 40-59 years and 1.48 (95% CI, 1.42-1.54) for those aged 60-79. Those aged 80 and older were most likely to be intubated, at an odds ratio of 1.5 (95% CI, 1.43-1.58).

Elderly patients were most likely to undergo tracheostomy (OR, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.75-2.27), gastrostomy (OR, 3.37; 95% CI, 2.97-3.83), and to experience in-hospital mortality (OR, 6.51; 95% CI, 5.95-7.13), compared with the youngest patients.

These intervention rates also varied by racial/ethnic groups. Minority populations, particularly Black people, had higher odds of tracheostomy and gastrostomy, compared with non-Hispanic White persons.

The odds of undergoing electroencephalography monitoring progressively rose as income level increased (OR, 1.47; 95% CI, 1.34-1.62) for the highest income quartile versus the lowest quartile. The odds of undergoing EEG monitoring were also higher at urban teaching hospitals than at rural hospitals.

Tackling these disparities in this patient population include increasing resources, personnel, and health education aimed at minorities, low-income patients, and the elderly, said Dr. Tantillo Sepúlveda. She added that more research is needed “to determine the most effective ways of accomplishing this goal.”

The medical community can help reduce disparities, said Dr. Tantillo Sepúlveda, by working to improve health literacy, to reduce stigma associated with seizures, and to increase awareness of seizure risk factors.

They can also work to expand access to outpatient neurology clinics, epilepsy monitoring units, and epilepsy surgery. “Ethnic and racial minorities are less likely to receive epilepsy surgery for temporal lobe epilepsy, which has been shown to improve quality of life and reduce seizure burden,” Dr. Tantillo Sepúlveda noted.


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