Home / Health / Doctors explain how the "SUDEP" would probably have killed the Disney Star

Doctors explain how the "SUDEP" would probably have killed the Disney Star


Cameron Boyce was a victim of a deadly epileptic fit and died Saturday at the age of 20. Her family confirmed this week that the Disney Channel star was suffering from epilepsy. "The tragic death of Cameron was due to a seizure due to a persistent illness, it was epilepsy," a family spokesman told ABC News. An autopsy was performed and the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office awaits the results of further tests before determining the cause of death. But a doctor not involved in Boyce's care says at New York Times Boyce was probably killed by SUDEP: sudden and unexpected death in epilepsy. Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of NYU Langone's comprehensive epilepsy center, says one in 1,000 people with epilepsy die each year from SUDEP. This "actually makes more lives each year than sudden infant death syndrome," another CNN expert said.

About 70% of SUDEP cases occur during sleep; in most cases, the person sleeps alone. As Devinsky explains, the brain sometimes stops temporarily during epileptic seizures, which means that the centers that control the breathing are closed. Seizures can also alter the arousal reflex, which usually forces people to struggle to breathe when their air supply is blocked. "If it happens when a person sleeps, and sometimes the crisis makes them face down, then it's a perfect storm," he says. But, he adds, many patients with epilepsy are not aware of this possibility. If they were, he said, they could take preventive measures. A Michigan father, whose daughter died at the age of 19 because of SUDEP, told ABC 12 that the family had never heard of this disease and hoped that Boyce's death raise awareness of the problem. (Read more epilepsy stories.)

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