Epilepsy is a condition in which people experience recurrent seizures. The experience of seizures can have a significant impact on people both personally and professionally. Seizures may even lead to serious injury or death. The treatment of epilepsy requires the use of medications which can have significant side effects which further impact on people’s life style. Epilepsy is a common condition affecting as many as 4 in 100 Australians. Twice as many Australians will have a single seizure but do not go onto develop epilepsy. Epilepsy can occur at any age and the experience of a first seizure is frightening and leads to uncertainty and fear about the future and the risk of repeated seizures. Unfortunately the information we have to advise people about the likely outcome after a first seizure is limited as rigorous studies following large groups of patients have not been performed.
At the Austin hospital we established the idea of a rapid access clinic to support the needs of patients with a new onset seizure in 1994. This clinic facilitates rapid diagnosis and management by a neurologist with expertise in epilepsy. A similar clinic has also been running at the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) since 2001. A prospective database of all patients who have attended these clinics has been maintained. Using this information we are in a unique position to study the long term outcome of patients with their first ever seizure. We are able to classify patients at the time of their first presentation to clinic and then re-contact them to find out whether they have had subsequent seizures, whether they are requiring medications for treatment and what complications they have had associated with their treatment. We believe this comprehensive assessment of over 4000 patients will provide the most thorough and informative study into the implications of a new diagnosis of epilepsy.