Population‐based study of rare epilepsy incidence in a US urban population



This study was undertaken to estimate incidence of rare epilepsies and compare with literature.


We used electronic health record text search to identify children with 28 rare epilepsies in New York City (2010–2014). We estimated cumulative incidence and compared with literature.


Eight of 28 rare epilepsies had five or more prior estimates, and our measurements were within the published range for all. The most common were infantile epileptic spasms syndrome (1 in 2920 live births), Lennox–Gastaut syndrome (1 in 9690), and seizures associated with tuberous sclerosis complex (1 in 14 300). Fifteen of 28 had fewer than five prior estimates, and of these, we provided additional estimates for early infantile developmental and epileptic encephalopathy (1 in 32 700), epilepsy with myoclonic–atonic seizures (1 in 34 100), Sturge–Weber syndrome plus seizures/epilepsy (1 in 40 900), epilepsy in infancy with migrating focal seizures (1 in 54 500), Aicardi syndrome plus seizures/epilepsy (1 in 71 600), hypothalamic hamartoma with seizures (1 in 225 000), and Rasmussen syndrome (1 in 450 000). Five of 28 rare epilepsies had no prior estimates, and of these, we provided a new estimate for developmental/epileptic encephalopathy with spike-and-wave activation in sleep and/or continuous spikes and waves during sleep (1 in 34 100). Data were limited for the remaining 12 rare epilepsies, which were all genetic epilepsies, including PCDH19, CDKL5, Alpers disease, SCN8A, KCNQ2, SCN2A, GLUT1 deficiency, Phelan-McDermid syndrome, myoclonic epilepsy with ragged-red fibers, dup15q syndrome, ring chromosome 14, and ring chromosome 20.


We estimated the incidence of rare epilepsies using population-based electronic health record data and literature review. More research is needed to better estimate the incidence of genetic epilepsies with nonspecific clinical features. Electronic health records may be a valuable data source for studying rare epilepsies and other rare diseases, particularly as genetic testing becomes more widely adopted.