Long-term analysis of the effects of COVID-19 in people with epilepsy: results from a multicenter on-line survey across the pandemic waves

Abstract

Purpose

The worldwide pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus posed many challenges to the scientific and medical communities, including the protection and management of fragile populations. People with epilepsy (PWE) are a heterogenous group of subjects, with different treatment regimens and severity of symptoms. During the National lockdown, in Italy many patients with chronic conditions lost their regular follow-up program. The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on their health status, from the start of the pandemic (March 2020) to July 2021 and one year later.

Methods

We proposed an online questionnaire to subjects followed at different epilepsy centers located in Milano, Monza & Lodi, three of Lombardy, Northern Italy, the most affected areas by the pandemic. Survey evaluated age, sex, characteristics of patients, type of epilepsy and therapies, COVID-19 diagnosis, vaccines, sleep quality and anxiety status.

Results

Among 178 analyzed surveys, 37 individuals reported symptoms of COVID-19 in closed contacts, including 9 with molecular diagnosis and 16 PWE performed the nasopharyngeal swab with 3 positive cases. One year later, 35 individuals reported at least one symptom overlapping with those typical of COVID-19, 8 received COVID-19 diagnosis, among which 6 were positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection. According to the sleep quality scale assessment, most PWE (52.3%) had poor sleep quality. Assessing anxiety status, 32 (38.1%) had a pathological score.

Conclusion

In this multicenter study, we observed that PWE do not appear to be at higher risk of severe COVID-19. It will be fundamental monitoring this group to assess possible differences in long-COVID-19 and/or neuro-COVID-19 prevalence. On the other hand, our survey confirmed the impact of the pandemic on anxiety and quality of sleep in PWE. Thus, it is important to promptly recognize and treat psychological distress in PWE, because it could be a risk factor in seizure aggravation and quality of life deterioration. Telemedicine appears to be a useful tool to support patients with chronic diseases, such as epilepsy.

1. Introduction

In December 2019, an outbreak of pneumonia of unknown cause occurred in Wuhan, in the Hubei province of China posing a new and serious threat to public health [

  • Hui D.S.
  • I Azhar E.
  • Madani T.A.
  • Ntoumi F.
  • Kock R.
  • Dar O.
  • et al.
novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.