Postictal serotonin levels are associated with peri-ictal apnea

Arun Murugesan, M. R.Sandhya Rani, Laura Vilella, Nuria Lacuey, Johnson P. Hampson, Carl L. Faingold, Daniel Friedman, Orrin Devinsky, Rup K. Sainju, Stephan Schuele, Beate Diehl, Maromi Nei, Ronald M. Harper, Lisa M. Bateman, George Richerson, Samden D. Lhatoo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To determine the relationship between serum serotonin (5-HT) levels, ictal central apnea (ICA), and postconvulsive central apnea (PCCA) in epileptic seizures. METHODS: We prospectively evaluated video EEG, plethysmography, capillary oxygen saturation (SpO2), and ECG for 49 patients (49 seizures) enrolled in a multicenter study of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). Postictal and interictal venous blood samples were collected after a clinical seizure for measurement of serum 5-HT levels. Seizures were classified according to the International League Against Epilepsy 2017 seizure classification. We analyzed seizures with and without ICA (n = 49) and generalized convulsive seizures (GCS) with and without PCCA (n = 27). RESULTS: Postictal serum 5-HT levels were increased over interictal levels for seizures without ICA (p = 0.01), compared to seizures with ICA (p = 0.21). In patients with GCS without PCCA, serum 5-HT levels were increased postictally compared to interictal levels (p < 0.001), but not in patients with seizures with PCCA (p = 0.22). Postictal minus interictal 5-HT levels also differed between the 2 groups with and without PCCA (p = 0.03). Increased heart rate was accompanied by increased serum 5-HT levels (postictal minus interictal) after seizures without PCCA (p = 0.03) compared to those with PCCA (p = 0.42). CONCLUSIONS: The data suggest that significant seizure-related increases in serum 5-HT levels are associated with a lower incidence of seizure-related breathing dysfunction, and may reflect physiologic changes that confer a protective effect against deleterious phenomena leading to SUDEP. These results need to be confirmed with a larger sample size study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e1485-e1494
Issue number15
StatePublished - Oct 8 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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