Risk of Unnatural Mortality in People With Epilepsy

Key Points

Question  What is the risk and medication contribution to cause-specific unnatural mortality in people with epilepsy?

Findings  In this population-based cohort study, more than 50 000 people with epilepsy and 1 million matched individuals without epilepsy were identified in 2 data sets from the general populations of England and Wales. People with epilepsy had a 3-fold increased risk of any unnatural mortality and a 5-fold increased risk of unintentional medication poisoning; psychotropic and opioid, but not antiepileptic, drugs were most commonly used in poisoning.

Meaning  Clinicians should provide advice on unintentional injury and poisoning and suicide prevention and consider the toxicity of concomitant medication when prescribing drugs for people with epilepsy.


Importance  People with epilepsy are at increased risk of mortality, but, to date, the cause-specific risks of all unnatural causes have not been reported.

Objective  To estimate cause-specific unnatural mortality risks in people with epilepsy and to identify the medication types involved in poisoning deaths.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This population-based cohort study used 2 electronic primary care data sets linked to hospitalization and mortality records, the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) in England (from January 1, 1998, to March 31, 2014) and the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) Databank in Wales (from January 1, 2001, to December 31, 2014). Each person with epilepsy was matched on age (within 2 years), sex, and general practice with up to 20 individuals without epilepsy. Unnatural mortality was determined using International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision codes V01 through Y98 in the Office for National Statistics mortality records. Hazard ratios (HRs) were estimated in each data set using a stratified Cox proportional hazards model, and meta-analyses were conducted using DerSimonian and Laird random-effects models. The analysis was performed from January 5, 2016, to November 16, 2017.

Exposures  People with epilepsy were identified using primary care epilepsy diagnoses and associated antiepileptic drug prescriptions.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Hazard ratios (HRs) for unnatural mortality and the frequency of each involved medication type estimated as a percentage of all medication poisoning deaths.

Results  In total, 44 678 individuals in the CPRD and 14 051 individuals in the SAIL Databank were identified in the prevalent epilepsy cohorts, and 891 429 (CPRD) and 279 365 (SAIL) individuals were identified in the comparison cohorts. In both data sets, 51% of the epilepsy and comparison cohorts were male, and the median age at entry was 40 years (interquartile range, 25-60 years) in the CPRD cohorts and 43 years (interquartile range, 24-64 years) in the SAIL cohorts. People with epilepsy were significantly more likely to die of any unnatural cause (HR, 2.77; 95% CI, 2.43-3.16), unintentional injury or poisoning (HR, 2.97; 95% CI, 2.54-3.48) or suicide (HR, 2.15; 95% CI, 1.51-3.07) than people in the comparison cohort. Particularly large risk increases were observed in the epilepsy cohorts for unintentional medication poisoning (HR, 4.99; 95% CI, 3.22-7.74) and intentional self-poisoning with medication (HR, 3.55; 95% CI, 1.01-12.53). Opioids (56.5% [95% CI, 43.3%-69.0%]) and psychotropic medication (32.3% [95% CI, 20.9%-45.3%)] were more commonly involved than antiepileptic drugs (9.7% [95% CI, 3.6%-19.9%]) in poisoning deaths in people with epilepsy.

Conclusions and Relevance  Compared with people without epilepsy, people with epilepsy are at increased risk of unnatural death and thus should be adequately advised about unintentional injury prevention and monitored for suicidal ideation, thoughts, and behaviors. The suitability and toxicity of concomitant medication should be considered when prescribing for comorbid conditions.




Dexmedetomidine Prevents Acute Kidney Injury After Adult Cardiac Surgery


Background Dexmedetomidine has been shown to confer direct renoprotection by stabilizing the sympathetic system, exerting anti-inflammatory effects and attenuating ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury in preclinical studies. Results from clinical trials of dexmedetomidine on acute kidney injury (AKI) following adult cardiac surgery are controversial.

Methods We searched EMBASE, PubMed, and Cochrane CENTRAL databases for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing the renal effect of dexmedetomidine versus placebo or other anesthetic drugs in adult patients undergoing cardiac surgery. The primary outcome was the incidence of AKI. The secondary outcomes were mechanical ventilation (MV) duration, intensive care unit (ICU) stay and hospital length of stay(LOS), and postoperative mortality (in-hospital or within 30 days).

Results Ten trials with a total of 1575 study patients were selected. Compared with controls, dexmedetomidine significantly reduced the incidence of postoperative AKI [68/788 vs 97/787; odds ratio(OR), 0.65; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.45–0.92; P = 0.02; I2 = 0.0%], and there was no difference between groups in postoperative mortality (4/487 vs 11/483; OR, 0.43; 95% CI, 0.14–1.28; P = 0.13; I2 = 0.0%), MV duration [in days; n = 1229; weighted mean difference(WMD), −0.22; 95% CI, −2.04 to 1.70; P = 0.81], ICU stay (in days; n = 1363; WMD, −0.85; 95% CI, −2.14 to 0.45; P = 0.20), and hospital LOS (in days; n = 878; WMD, −0.24; 95% CI, −0.71 to 0.23; P = 0.32).

Conclusions Perioperative administration of dexmedetomidine in adult patients undergoing cardiac surgery may reduce the incidence of postoperative AKI. Future trials are needed to determine the dose and timing of dexmedetomidine in improving outcomes, especially in patients with decreased baseline kidney function.

Effect of self-administration versus provider-administered injection of subcutaneous depot medroxyprogesterone acetate on continuation rates in Malawi: a randomised controlled trial


Injectable contraceptives are popular in sub-Saharan Africa but have high discontinuation rates due partly to the need for provider-administered re-injection. We compared continuation rates of women who self-injected subcutaneous depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA-SC) and women who received DMPA-SC from a health-care provider, including community health workers (CHWs).


We did an open-label randomised controlled trial based at six Ministry of Health clinics in rural Mangochi District, Malawi. Health-care providers recruited adult women who presented at the six clinics or to CHWs in rural communities in the clinic catchment areas. Participants received DMPA-SC and were randomised (1:1) to receive provider-administered injections or training in how to self-inject DMPA-SC. Randomisation was done via a computer-generated block randomisation schedule with block sizes of four, six, and eight and stratified by study site, generated by an independent statistician. Self-injectors administered the first injection under observation and were sent home with three doses, written instructions, and a calendar. The provider-administered group received a DMPA-SC injection and a calendar, and were asked to return for subsequent injections. Data collectors contacted participants after the 14-week re-injection window at 3, 6, and 9 months to collect continuation data. At 12 months after enrolment or early discontinuation, women had their final interview, which included pregnancy testing. The primary outcome was discontinuation of DMPA-SC, as assessed in the intention-to-treat population. We used Kaplan-Meier methods to estimate the probabilities of continuation and a log-rank test to compare groups. Safety was assessed in the as-treated population, which consisted only of participants who successfully received at least one DMPA-SC injection after randomisation. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT02293694.


This study lasted from Sept 17, 2015, to Feb 21, 2017. 731 women underwent randomisation, with 364 assigned to the self-administered group and 367 to the provider-administered group. One woman in the self-injection group withdrew at month 0. Treatment was discontinued by 99 women in the self-administered group and 199 women in the provider-administered group. The 12 month continuation rate was 73% in the self-injection group and 45% in the provider-administered group, giving an incidence rate ratio of 0·40 (95% CI 0·31–0·51; p<0·0001). Adverse events deemed to potentially be treatment-related were reported by ten women (20 events) in the self-administered group and 17 women (28 events) in the provider-administered group. Five serious adverse events were reported during the trial by four women; two events related to DMPA-SC (menorrhagia and anaemia requiring hospital admission) were reported by the same woman in the provider-administered group and resolved without sequelae. The other serious adverse events, including one death, were deemed to be unrelated to DMPA-SC.


Women who self-injected DMPA-SC had significantly higher rates of continuation than those receiving provider-injected DMPA-SC. Community-based provision of injectable contraception for self-injection in low-resource settings seems to be safe and feasible. Self-administration of DMPA-SC should be made widely available.


The Blossoming of Contraceptive Implant Use in Africa

Contraceptive implant use is rising rapidly, substantially, and equitably in many sub-Saharan African countries, across almost all sociodemographic categories. Gains in implant use have exceeded combined gains for IUDs, pills, and injectables. Key contributing factors include sizeable reductions in commodity cost, much-increased commodity supply, greater government commitment to expanded method choice, and wider adoption of high-impact service delivery practices that broaden access and better reach underserved populations. Continued progress in meeting women’s reproductive intentions with implants calls for further investment in quality services for both insertion and removal, and for addressing issues of financing and sustainability.


This article draws from national surveys of every sub-Saharan African country with at least 1 recent survey published between 2015 and 2017 and 2 prior surveys from 2003 to 2014. Twelve countries comprising over 60% of the region’s population met these inclusion criteria. The analysis considers recent and longer-term changes in 3 key variables: modern contraceptive prevalence rate (mCPR), method-specific prevalence, and a method’s share of the current modern method mix. As recently as 2011, implant CPR in sub-Saharan Africa was only 1.1%. Since then, sizeable price reductions, much-increased commodity supply, greater government commitment to rights-based family planning, broader WHO eligibility guidance, and wider adoption of high-impact service delivery practices have resulted in expanded client access and marked increases in implant prevalence and share of the method mix. Ten of the 12 countries now have an implant CPR around 6% or higher, with 3 countries above 11%. Increased implant use has been the main driver of the increased mCPR attained by 11 countries, with gains in implant use alone exceeding combined gains in use of injectables, pills, and intrauterine devices. In countries as diverse as Burkina Faso and Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ghana, Kenya and Senegal, implant use now accounts for one-fourth to one-half of all modern method use. Implants have become the first or second most widely used method in 10 countries. In the 7 countries with multiple surveys conducted over a 2- to 3-year span between 2013–14 and 2016–17, average annual gains in implant prevalence range from 0.97 to 4.15 percentage points; this contrasts to historical annual gains in use of all modern methods of 0.70 percentage points in 42 sub-Saharan African countries from 1986 to 2008. Implant use has risen substantially and fairly equitably across almost all sociodemographic categories, including unmarried women, women of lower and higher parity, women in all 5 wealth quintiles, younger and older women, and women residing in rural areas. A notable exception is the category of nulliparous married women, whose implant use is mostly below 1%. These attainments represent a major success story not often seen in family planning programming. With continued program commitment and donor support, these trends in implant uptake and popularity are likely to continue for the next few years. This implies even greater need for the international family planning community to maintain its focus on rights-based programming, ensuring reliable access to implant removal as well as insertion services, and addressing issues of financing and sustainability.


Malaria in pregnancy alters l-arginine bioavailability and placental vascular development

Malaria relief, one amino acid at a time

Malaria infection during pregnancy can disrupt placental vasculature and cause complications during the pregnancy and delivery. Nitric oxide plays a key role in placental vascular function, and its synthesis requires l-arginine. Knowing that l-arginine and nitric oxide are both depleted during malaria-induced hemolysis and that many people in malaria-endemic areas lack sufficient l-arginine in their diets, McDonald et al. examined the effects of dietary l-arginine supplementation. The authors first studied a cohort of pregnant women in Malawi and showed that the blood of patients with malaria had less l-arginine and that this was associated with worse pregnancy outcomes. Conversely, l-arginine supplementation in a mouse model of malaria in pregnancy improved fetal weight and viability, indicating the potential value of this intervention.


Reducing adverse birth outcomes due to malaria in pregnancy (MIP) is a global health priority. However, there are few safe and effective interventions. l-Arginine is an essential amino acid in pregnancy and an immediate precursor in the biosynthesis of nitric oxide (NO), but there are limited data on the impact of MIP on NO biogenesis. We hypothesized that hypoarginemia contributes to the pathophysiology of MIP and that l-arginine supplementation would improve birth outcomes. In a prospective study of pregnant Malawian women, we show that MIP was associated with lower concentrations of l-arginine and higher concentrations of endogenous inhibitors of NO biosynthesis, asymmetric and symmetric dimethylarginine, which were associated with adverse birth outcomes. In a model of experimental MIP, l-arginine supplementation in dams improved birth outcomes (decreased stillbirth and increased birth weight) compared with controls. The mechanism of action was via normalized angiogenic pathways and enhanced placental vascular development, as visualized by placental microcomputerized tomography imaging. These data define a role for dysregulation of NO biosynthetic pathways in the pathogenesis of MIP and support the evaluation of interventions to enhance l-arginine bioavailability as strategies to improve birth outcomes.



Balanced Crystalloids versus Saline in Critically Ill Adults



Both balanced crystalloids and saline are used for intravenous fluid administration in critically ill adults, but it is not known which results in better clinical outcomes.


In a pragmatic, cluster-randomized, multiple-crossover trial conducted in five intensive care units at an academic center, we assigned 15,802 adults to receive saline (0.9% sodium chloride) or balanced crystalloids (lactated Ringer’s solution or Plasma-Lyte A) according to the randomization of the unit to which they were admitted. The primary outcome was a major adverse kidney event within 30 days — a composite of death from any cause, new renal-replacement therapy, or persistent renal dysfunction (defined as an elevation of the creatinine level to ≥200% of baseline) — all censored at hospital discharge or 30 days, whichever occurred first.


Among the 7942 patients in the balanced-crystalloids group, 1139 (14.3%) had a major adverse kidney event, as compared with 1211 of 7860 patients (15.4%) in the saline group (marginal odds ratio, 0.91; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.84 to 0.99; conditional odds ratio, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.82 to 0.99; P=0.04). In-hospital mortality at 30 days was 10.3% in the balanced-crystalloids group and 11.1% in the saline group (P=0.06). The incidence of new renal-replacement therapy was 2.5% and 2.9%, respectively (P=0.08), and the incidence of persistent renal dysfunction was 6.4% and 6.6%, respectively (P=0.60).


Among critically ill adults, the use of balanced crystalloids for intravenous fluid administration resulted in a lower rate of the composite outcome of death from any cause, new renal-replacement therapy, or persistent renal dysfunction than the use of saline.


Hydrocortisone plus Fludrocortisone for Adults with Septic Shock



Septic shock is characterized by dysregulation of the host response to infection, with circulatory, cellular, and metabolic abnormalities. We hypothesized that therapy with hydrocortisone plus fludrocortisone or with drotrecogin alfa (activated), which can modulate the host response, would improve the clinical outcomes of patients with septic shock.


In this multicenter, double-blind, randomized trial with a 2-by-2 factorial design, we evaluated the effect of hydrocortisone-plus-fludrocortisone therapy, drotrecogin alfa (activated), the combination of the three drugs, or their respective placebos. The primary outcome was 90-day all-cause mortality. Secondary outcomes included mortality at intensive care unit (ICU) discharge and hospital discharge and at day 28 and day 180 and the number of days alive and free of vasopressors, mechanical ventilation, or organ failure. After drotrecogin alfa (activated) was withdrawn from the market, the trial continued with a two-group parallel design. The analysis compared patients who received hydrocortisone plus fludrocortisone with those who did not (placebo group).


Among the 1241 patients included in the trial, the 90-day mortality was 43.0% (264 of 614 patients) in the hydrocortisone-plus-fludrocortisone group and 49.1% (308 of 627 patients) in the placebo group (P=0.03). The relative risk of death in the hydrocortisone-plus-fludrocortisone group was 0.88 (95% confidence interval, 0.78 to 0.99). Mortality was significantly lower in the hydrocortisone-plus-fludrocortisone group than in the placebo group at ICU discharge (35.4% vs. 41.0%, P=0.04), hospital discharge (39.0% vs. 45.3%, P=0.02), and day 180 (46.6% vs. 52.5%, P=0.04) but not at day 28 (33.7% and 38.9%, respectively; P=0.06). The number of vasopressor-free days to day 28 was significantly higher in the hydrocortisone-plus-fludrocortisone group than in the placebo group (17 vs. 15 days, P<0.001), as was the number of organ-failure–free days (14 vs. 12 days, P=0.003). The number of ventilator-free days was similar in the two groups (11 days in the hydrocortisone-plus-fludrocortisone group and 10 in the placebo group, P=0.07). The rate of serious adverse events did not differ significantly between the two groups, but hyperglycemia was more common in hydrocortisone-plus-fludrocortisone group.


In this trial involving patients with septic shock, 90-day all-cause mortality was lower among those who received hydrocortisone plus fludrocortisone than among those who received placebo.


Effect of Oral Administration of a Mixture of Probiotic Strains on SCORAD Index and Use of Topical Steroids in Young Patients With Moderate Atopic Dermatitis

Key Points

Question  Can treatment with an oral probiotic reduce the SCORAD index and the use of topical steroids in children with moderate atopic dermatitis?

Findings  This randomized clinical trial of 50 children treated with a mixture of probiotics or placebo for 12 weeks found that SCORAD and topical steroid use decreased significantly in the probiotic group compared with the placebo group.

Meaning  This probiotic is an effective and safe coadjuvant treatment to reduce the SCORAD index and topical steroid use in children with moderate atopic dermatitis.


Importance  Oral intake of new probiotic formulations may improve the course of atopic dermatitis (AD) in a young population.

Objective  To determine whether a mixture of oral probiotics is safe and effective in the treatment of AD symptoms and to evaluate its influence on the use of topical steroids in a young population.

Design, Setting, and Participants  A 12-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled intervention trial, from March to June 2016, at the outpatient hospital Centro Dermatológico Estético de Alicante, Alicante, Spain. Observers were blinded to patient groupings. Participants were children aged 4 to 17 years with moderate atopic dermatitis. The groups were stratified and block randomized according to sex, age, and age of onset. Patients were ineligible if they had used systemic immunosuppressive drugs in the previous 3 months or antibiotics in the previous 2 weeks or had a concomitant diagnosis of intestinal bowel disease or signs of bacterial infection.

Interventions  Twelve weeks with a daily capsule containing freeze-dried powder with 109 total colony-forming units of the probiotic strains Bifidobacterium lactis CECT 8145, B longum CECT 7347, and Lactobacillus casei CECT 9104 and maltodextrin as a carrier, or placebo (maltodextrin-only capsules).

Main Outcomes and Measures  SCORAD index score and days of topical steroid use were analyzed.

Results  Fifty children (26 [50%] female; mean [SD] age, 9.2 [3.7] years) participated. After 12 weeks of follow-up, the mean reduction in the SCORAD index in the probiotic group was 19.2 points greater than in the control group (mean difference, −19.2; 95% CI, −15.0 to −23.4). In relative terms, we observed a change of −83% (95% CI, −95% to −70%) in the probiotic group and −24% (95% CI, −36% to −11%) in the placebo group (P < .001). We found a significant reduction in the use of topical steroids to treat flares in the probiotic arm (161 of 2084 patient-days [7.7%]) compared with the control arm (220 of 2032 patient-days [10.8%]; odds ratio, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.51 to 0.78).

Conclusions and Relevance  The mixture of probiotics was effective in reducing SCORAD index and reducing the use of topical steroids in patients with moderate AD.


Restoration of euglycemia and normal acute insulin response to glucose in obese subjects with type 2 diabetes following bariatric surgery.

Insulin resistance and loss of glucose-stimulated acute insulin response (AIR) are the two major and earliest defects in the course of type 2 diabetes. We investigated whether weight loss after bariatric surgery in patients with morbid obesity and type 2 diabetes could restore euglycemia and normal AIR to an intravenous glucose tolerance test (IVGTT). We studied 25 morbidly obese patients-12 with type 2 diabetes, 5 with impaired glucose tolerance, and 8 with normal glucose tolerance (NGT)-before and after a biliopancreatic diversion (BPD) with Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGBP). Twelve individuals with normal BMI served as control subjects. Twelve months after surgery, in the diabetes group, BMI decreased from 53.2 +/- 2.0 to 29.2 +/- 1.7 kg/m(2), fasting glucose decreased from 9.5 +/- 0.83 to 4.5 +/- 0.13 mmol/l, and fasting insulin decreased from 168.4 +/- 25.9 to 37.7 +/- 4.4 pmol/l (mean +/- SE; P < 0.001). AIR, the mean of insulin concentration at 2, 3, and 5 min over basal in the IVGTT, increased by 770 and 935% at 3 and 12 months after surgery, respectively (from 24.0 +/- 22.7 to 209 +/- 43.4 and 248 +/- 33.1 pmol/l, respectively; P < 0,001). Conversely, in the NGT group, the AIR decreased by 40.5% (from 660 +/- 60 to 393 +/- 93 pmol/l; P = 0.027) 12 months after surgery. BPD with RYGBP performed in morbidly obese patients with type 2 diabetes leads to significant weight loss, euglycemia, and normal insulin sensitivity; but most importantly, it restores a normal beta-cell AIR to glucose and a normal relationship of AIR to insulin sensitivity. This is the first study to demonstrate that the lost glucose-induced AIR in patients with type 2 diabetes of mild or moderate severity is a reversible abnormality.


First results from the methods: numerical, galaxy formation, large-scale structure of Universe: matter and galaxy clustering


Hydrodynamical simulations of galaxy formation have now reached sufficient volume to make precision predictions for clustering on cosmologically relevant scales. Here, we use our new IllustrisTNG simulations to study the non-linear correlation functions and power spectra of baryons, dark matter, galaxies, and haloes over an exceptionally large range of scales. We find that baryonic effects increase the clustering of dark matter on small scales and damp the total matter power spectrum on scales up to k ∼ 10 h Mpc−1 by 20 per cent. The non-linear two-point correlation function of the stellar mass is close to a power-law over a wide range of scales and approximately invariant in time from very high redshift to the present. The two-point correlation function of the simulated galaxies agrees well with Sloan Digital Sky Survey at its mean redshift z ≃ 0.1, both as a function of stellar mass and when split according to galaxy colour, apart from a mild excess in the clustering of red galaxies in the stellar mass range of109–1010 h−2 M. Given this agreement, the TNG simulations can make valuable theoretical predictions for the clustering bias of different galaxy samples. We find that the clustering length of the galaxy autocorrelation function depends strongly on stellar mass and redshift. Its power-law slope γ is nearly invariant with stellar mass, but declines from γ ∼ 1.8 at redshift z = 0 to γ ∼ 1.6 at redshift z ∼ 1, beyond which the slope steepens again. We detect significant scale dependences in the bias of different observational tracers of large-scale structure, extending well into the range of the baryonic acoustic oscillations and causing nominal (yet fortunately correctable) shifts of the acoustic peaks of around ∼ 5 per cent.