Effectiveness of Seizure Dogs for People With Severe Refractory Epilepsy: Results From the EPISODE Study

EPISODE-team, Valérie van Hezik-Wester, Saskia de Groot, Tim Kanters, Louis Wagner, Jacqueline Ardesch, Werner Brouwer, Isaac Corro Ramos, Saskia le Cessie, Matthijs Versteegh, Job van Exel

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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to evaluate whether people living with severe medically refractory epilepsy (PSRE) benefit from a seizure dog. METHODS: An individual-level stepped-wedge randomized controlled trial was conducted. The study was conducted in the Netherlands among adults with daily to weekly seizures. All participants were included simultaneously (on June 1, 2019) while receiving usual care. Then, during the 36-month follow-up, they received a seizure dog in a randomized sequence. Participants kept a seizure diary and completed 3-monthly surveys. Seizure frequency was the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes included seizure-free days, seizure severity, health-related quality of life (HRQoL), and well-being. Data were analyzed using generalized linear mixed modeling (GLMM). The models assumed a delayed intervention effect, starting when the seizure dog reached an advanced stage of training. Effects were calculated as changes per 28-day period with the intervention. RESULTS: Data were collected from 25 participants, of whom 20 crossed over to the intervention condition. The median follow-up was 19 months with usual care and 12 months with the intervention. On average, participants experienced 115 (SD 164) seizures per 28-day period in the usual care condition and 73 (SD 131) seizures in the intervention condition. Seven participants achieved a reduction of 50% or more at the end of follow-up. GLMM indicated a 3.1% decrease in seizure frequency for each consecutive 28-day period with the intervention (0.969, 95% CI 0.960-0.977). Furthermore, an increase in the number of seizure-free days was observed (1.012, 95% CI 1.009, 1.015), but no effect on seizure severity measured with the NHS3. Generic HRQoL scores improved, as reflected in the decrease in EQ-5D-5L utility decrement (0.975, 95% CI 0.954-0.997). Smaller improvements were observed on overall self-rated HRQoL, epilepsy-specific HRQoL, and well-being, measured with the EQ VAS, QOLIE-31-P, and ICECAP-A, respectively. DISCUSSION: Seizure dogs reduce seizure frequency, increase the number of seizure-free days, and improve the quality of life of PSRE. The magnitude of the effect on generic HRQoL indicates that seizure dogs benefit PSRE beyond the impact on seizure frequency alone. Early discontinuation of seizure dog partnerships suggests that this intervention is not suitable for all PSRE and requires further study. TRIAL REGISTRATION INFORMATION: This study was registered in the Dutch Trial Register (NL6682) on November 28, 2017. Participants were enrolled on June 1, 2019. CLASSIFICATION OF EVIDENCE: This study provides Class III evidence that seizure dogs are associated with a decrease in seizure frequency in adult patients with medically refractory epilepsy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e209178
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2024

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Copyright © 2024 The Author(s). Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. on behalf of the American Academy of Neurology.


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