United States Epilepsy Center Characteristics: A Data Analysis From the National Association of Epilepsy Centers

Background and Objectives

Patients with drug-resistant epilepsy (DRE) may benefit from specialized testing and treatments to better control seizures and improve quality of life. Most evaluations and procedures for DRE in the United States are performed at epilepsy centers accredited by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers (NAEC). On an annual basis, the NAEC collects data from accredited epilepsy centers on hospital-based epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU) size and admissions, diagnostic testing, surgeries, and other services. This article highlights trends in epilepsy center services from 2012 through 2019.

Methods

We analyzed data reported in 2012, 2016, and 2019 from all level 3 and level 4 NAEC accredited epilepsy centers. Data were described using frequency for categorical variables and median for continuous variables and were analyzed by center level and center population category. EMU beds, EMU admissions, epileptologists, and aggregate procedure volumes were also described using rates per population per year.

Results

During the period studied, the number of NAEC accredited centers increased from 161 to 256, with the largest increases in adult- and pediatric-only centers. Growth in EMU admissions (41%), EMU beds (26%), and epileptologists (109%) per population occurred. Access to specialized testing and services broadly expanded. The largest growth in procedure volumes occurred in laser interstitial thermal therapy (LiTT) (61%), responsive neurostimulation (RNS) implantations (114%), and intracranial monitoring without resection (152%) over the study period. Corpus callosotomies and vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) implantations decreased (–12.8% and –2.4%, respectively), while growth in temporal lobectomies (5.9%), extratemporal resections (11.9%), and hemispherectomies/otomies (13.1%) lagged center growth (59%), leading to a decrease in median volumes of these procedures per center.

Discussion

During the study period, the availability of specialty epilepsy care in the United States improved as the NAEC implemented its accreditation program. Surgical case complexity increased while aggregate surgical volume remained stable or declined across most procedure types, with a corresponding decline in cases per center. This article describes recent data trends and current state of resources and practice across NAEC member centers and identifies several future directions for driving systematic improvements in epilepsy care.

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