Variation in seizure risk increases from antiseizure medication withdrawal among patients with well-controlled epilepsy: a pooled analysis

Samuel W Terman*, Geertruida Slinger, Adriana Koek, Jeremy Skvarce, Mellanie V Springer, Julie M Ziobro, James F Burke, Willem M Otte, Roland D Thijs, Morten I Lossius, Anthony G Marson, Laura J Bonnett, Kees Pj Braun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Objective: Guidelines suggest considering antiseizure medication (ASM) discontinuation in seizure-free patients with epilepsy. Past work has poorly explored how discontinuation effects vary between patients. We evaluated (1) what factors modify the influence of discontinuation on seizure risk; and (2) the range of seizure risk increase due to discontinuation across low- versus high-risk patients. Methods: We pooled three datasets including seizure-free patients who did and did not discontinue ASMs. We conducted time-to-first-seizure analyses. First, we evaluated what individual patient factors modified the relative effect of ASM discontinuation on seizure risk via interaction terms. Then, we assessed the distribution of 2-year risk increase as predicted by our adjusted logistic regressions. Results: We included 1626 patients, of whom 678 (42%) planned to discontinue all ASMs. The mean predicted 2-year seizure risk was 43% [95% confidence interval (CI) 39%–46%] for discontinuation versus 21% (95% CI 19%–24%) for continuation. The mean 2-year absolute seizure risk increase was 21% (95% CI 18%–26%). No individual interaction term was significant after correcting for multiple comparisons. The median [interquartile range (IQR)] risk increase across patients was 19% (IQR 14%–24%; range 7%–37%). Results were unchanged when restricting analyses to only the two RCTs. Significance: No single patient factor significantly modified the influence of discontinuation on seizure risk, although we captured how absolute risk increases change for patients that are at low versus high risk. Patients should likely continue ASMs if even a 7% 2-year increase in the chance of any more seizures would be too much and should likely discontinue ASMs if even a 37% risk increase would be too little. In between these extremes, individualized risk calculation and a careful understanding of patient preferences are critical. Future work will further develop a two-armed individualized seizure risk calculator and contextualize seizure risk thresholds below which to consider discontinuation. Plain Language Summary: Understanding how much antiseizure medications (ASMs) decrease seizure risk is an important part of determining which patients with epilepsy should be treated, especially for patients who have not had a seizure in a while. We found that there was a wide range in the amount that ASM discontinuation increases seizure risk—between 7% and 37%. We found that no single patient factor modified that amount. Understanding what a patient's seizure risk might be if they discontinued versus continued ASM treatment is critical to making informed decisions about whether the benefit of treatment outweighs the downsides.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-344
Number of pages12
JournalEpilepsia Open
Issue number1
Early online date10 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • antiseizure medications
  • discontinuation
  • epilepsy
  • risk prediction


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