SUDEP Action

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The Wearable Apnea Detection Device and SUDEP prevention

Researchers have developed a small Wearable Apnoea Detection Device (WADD) that could help prevent SUDEP.  Professor John Duncan from University College London and Dr Esther Rodriguez-Villegas from Imperial College are working on testing the tiny wearable device to monitor breathing in people with epilepsy. The device will trigger an alarm if breathing stops.  

The WADD has been tested in 20 controls on 10 sleep apnoea patients. This confirmed high sensitivity and low false alarm rates. There is currently no such device in production. All the existing systems are bulky and have very high false alarm rates. The ultimate aim is to produce a minute device which could be worn all the time by people at high risk of SUDEP. 

The exact cause of SUDEP is not always known. In some cases the heart stops first. However, apnoea has been identified as the most likely cause. The monitoring device could give the alarm when someone stops breathing, providing a chance of saving that life through CPR.

The device needs testing on 50 people with epilepsy to test how accurate and reliable it is on people having seizures. The patients will be recruited through the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery EEG unit where they are already undergoing tests and observation for their epilepsy.

The device may need recalibrating following the first phase of testing. The researchers would then need to test the device on a wider pool of patients. Alternatively, it may be that the research findings are emphatic enough at this stage to seek commercial partners or venture capital funding. Naturally, we cannot predict what the research will show at this stage, but hope that this project will be a significant step forward in the fight against SUDEP.

There are about 600,000 people with epilepsy in the UK. Around a third of these have seizures despite medication. These people are at high risk of premature death. SUDEP claims around 600 lives each year in the UK. Young adults are at particular risk. They are often alone at the time of death.

The project is scheduled to start in June 2015 at the rate of approximately one patient a week for one year.

Research Team

Professor John Duncan is an academic clinical neurologist specialising in epilepsy at the UCL Institute of Neurology and the clinical director of the National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery.

Dr. Esther Rodrigues-Villegas is an electronics engineer with a specialism in wearable sensors based at Imperial College 

If you would like to know more about the device or of ways you can help raise funds for the project please contact [email protected] or ring us on 01235 772850