2020 Central Clinical School Public Lecture

Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP): How translational research on epilepsy is finding answers

The annual CCS public lecture was held 29 October 2020, presented by Professor Terry O'Brien, Head of Central Clinical School and its Department of Medicine. See video

Epilepsy is a lifelong neurological condition estimated to affect over 65 million people worldwide, with approximately 150,000 Australians living with active epilepsy. It is not widely appreciated that Epilepsy is a potentially life threatening disorder, with a standardised mortality of >3 times that of the general population. The most common epilepsy-related cause of premature mortality is Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP), which is the sudden, unexpected, non-traumatic and non-drowning death in a person with epilepsy, with or without evidence for a seizure in whom another cause is not found. It is estimated that 50-100 Australians each year die from SUDEP. SUDEP often occurs in young, otherwise healthy individuals, and with people with epilepsy having up to 40 times greater risk of dying suddenly compared with aged-matched controls without epilepsy.

The mechanisms underlying SUDEP have increasingly been the focus of our research, to understand how uncontrolled seizures result in a disturbance of cardiorespiratory function which can cause sudden death. Evidence-based intervention strategies to reduce the risk of SUDEP in people with epilepsy are now being developed and implemented, but more research is needed to prevent this devastating consequence for people with epilepsy, and their families.

About our speaker

Professor Terry O'Brien is Head of Monash University's Central Clinical School and Program Director Alfred Brain and Deputy Director of Research, Alfred Health. He is a specialist in neurology and clinical pharmacology, with particular expertise in epilepsy and neurodegenerative diseases, neuropharmacology, pre-clinical and clinical drug development, and in-vivo imaging in animal models and humans. Professor O'Brien leads a large translational research team undertaking both basic studies and clinical studies focused on developing improved treatments and biomarkers for people with epilepsy and related brain diseases, including traumatic brain injury, dementias and brain tumours. He has published >500 peer-reviewed original papers in leading scientific and medical journals which have been cited >20,000 times (H-Index 75).