Epilepsy Information

American Epilepsy Society Poster (Abst. 3.268)

Depression in elderly patients with epilepsy

Authors: Olgica Laban-Grant, E. Fertig, J. Kanter, H. Husaini, L. Myers and M. Lancman

Depression is a common comorbid condition in people with epilepsy. Although epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders of old age, few studies have addressed depression in elderly patients with epilepsy. The aim of this study was to evaluate risk factors for depression in geriatric epilepsy patients


We identified 43 epilepsy patients in our practice age 55 and older who completed neuropsychological testing including the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), Beck Depression Inventory-Second Edition (BDI-II), and Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS). Thirty-two patients fulfilled criteria for depression. Following variables were evaluated: handedness, age of onset of epilepsy, type of epilepsy (generalized vs. partial), lateralization and localization of seizure focus, duration of epilepsy, treatment resistance, marital status, education, proximity to family, family and personal history of depression or other psychiatric disorders, and temporal relation between onset of depression and epilepsy.

In our sample 16/32 patients (50%) fulfilling criteria for depression reported to be treated for depression. 6/32 (19%) of patients reported having symptoms of depression prior to diagnosis of epilepsy. Patients with depression were more likely to have partial epilepsy (29/29 vs. 9/11, P value 0.018). Although there was a trend for depressed patients to be treatment resistant this was not statistically significant (14/32 vs. 2/10, P value 0.332). Other variables showed no statistically significant difference.

Our data suggest that the majority of geriatric patients developed symptoms of depression after the diagnosis of epilepsy. Partial epilepsy was associated with increased risk for active depression in elderly in our sample. Active patient-doctor communication is crucial in the detection of depression within the treatment of geriatric epilepsy as timely treatment of depression may influence the outcome of both epilepsy and depression.