Researchers study bed alarms for nocturnal seizures
Seizures can strike at any time. Many parents of children with epilepsy live in constant fear of that moment. Because the risk of injury or death can be decreased with monitoring or supervision, parents adjust their lives to keep their eyes constantly on their children. Some parents are forced to keep their children home from school, and others sleep in the same bed with their child. Epilepsy can take a toll on families.
Several products are available in the marketplace that claim to reliably detect a child’s seizure activity without frequent false alarms. Researchers at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis are on the fore-front of testing these products to see which operate as promised, in order to find one that might bring the most relief to parents.
Le Bonheur’s Neuroscience Institute is the only center in the United States to review all three of seizure alarms currently on the market for home use. Two of the studies are complete and published, and the third is now underway. Patients in Le Bonheur’s Epilepsy Monitoring Unit are enrolled in the studies.
Sixteen-year old Becca Sharpe is one of the patients enrolled in one of the current studies. The high school junior has suffered with epilepsy since 5th grade. Over the years, the frequency and severity of the seizures has increased, forcing her father to explore better treatment options. Becca’s neurologist in Oklahoma referred her to Le Bonheur where she has access to the latest diagnostic tools in epilepsy treatment.
“As a single dad, I get up and go to work and I’m scared every minute of the day. I’ve driven home two or three times in the middle of the day to make sure she was OK,” Mark Sharpe said. “It would be awesome to have a monitor that would send me a signal that she was having a seizure. Then I wouldn’t have to worry.”
James Wheless, MD, co-director of the Neuroscience Institute at Le Bonheur, said he hopes this research will bring parents relief. “The ideal goal is for the child’s seizures to be controlled with treatment. For the child or adolescent in whom this may not be possible, the next best thing is the parent knowing when they have a seizure, so they can respond to them. These devices allow the family to do this -- and for the parents to have some piece of mind. This is critical, because a poorly rested parent is not going to take good care of their child with a medical illness.”
The first study is “Prospective Study of 2 Bed Alarms for Detection of Nocturnal Seizures,” which was published in the Journal of Child Neurology in October 2012. This study reviewed two models of the MedPage bed alarms. The researchers, led by Stephen Fulton, MD, found that these products do not adequately detect nocturnal seizures.
The second study, “Prospective Study of the Emfit Movement Monitor,” has been accepted for publication. In this research, the Emfit movement monitor proved to perform better than the MedPage bed alarms. The Emfit detected 84 percent of nocturnal tonic-clonic seizures. The team, led by Kate Van Poppel, MD, added that future advancements in these alarms to detect respiration or heart rate may further improve the ability to detect seizure events.
The third study that is now underway involves the SmartWatch, which uses a watch-like device to detect excessive and repetitive movement and sends a text to a family member’s phone.
Le Bonheur is home to one of the country’s leading pediatric epilepsy programs. The Neuroscience Institute attracts patients from 36 states and several countries.