Burden of Chronic and Acute Conditions and Symptoms in People With Epilepsy


Objective: People with epilepsy, one-third of whom in the US are on Medicaid, experience a wide range of chronic and physical comorbidities that influence their care and outcomes. In this study, we examine the burden and racial/ethnic disparities of chronic and acute conditions, injuries, and symptoms in a large and diverse group of people with epilepsy on Medicaid.

Methods: Using 5 years of Medicaid claims data we identified adult people with epilepsy and used all available claims and diagnoses to identify each person’s Clinical Classification Codes groups diagnosed during the study period. Using association rule mining we identified the top combinations of conditions and stratified these by race/ethnicity to identify potential prevalence disparities. Additionally, we examined the top combinations of conditions in high utilizers – that is individuals in the top quartile of hospitalizations and emergency department visits.

Results: Among 81,963 patients the most common conditions were: anxiety and mood disorders (46.5%), hypertension (36.9%), back problems (35.2%), developmental disorders (31.6%), and headache (29.5%). When examining combinations of conditions, anxiety and mood disorders continued to have an outsized prevalence – appearing in nearly every combination. There were notable disparities in disease burden, with American Indians and Alaskan Natives having a substantially higher prevalence of developmental disabilities, while Black individuals had a higher prevalence of hypertension. These disparities persisted to the higher-order combinations that included these conditions. High utilizers had a much higher disease burden, with 75.8% having an anxiety or mood disorder, as well as a higher burden of injuries.

Significance: This study shows a high prevalence of psychiatric and physical conditions and identifies racial and ethnic disparities affecting people with epilepsy. Targeting interventions to consider the comorbidities, race and ethnicity has potential to improve clinical care and reduce disparities.

This work has been featured in Medscape Neurology.

Wyatt P. Bensken, PhD
Research Investigator & Adjunct Assistant Professor of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences

My research interests include health disparities, health inequities, social determinants of health, and complex chronic conditions.