Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy in the bathtub

Kino Hayashi, Kazutaka Jin, Chizuko Nagamori, Kazuo Okanari, Tohru Okanishi, Yoichiro Homma, Yasushi Iimura, Takehiro Uda, Lynne Takada, Hiroshi Otsubo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Sudden death in the bathtub occurs relatively frequently in Japan, particularly among elderly people. We hypothesize that sudden death in epilepsy occurring in the bathtub (SDEPB)can be distinguished from sudden death in nonepilepsy occurring in the bathtub (SDnonEPB), but is identical to sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). Methods: Tokyo Medical Examiner's Office conducts postmortem examinations for all sudden and unexpected deaths in Tokyo. Clinical, social, and autopsy findings of 43 SDEPB were compared with 76 SDnonEPB, 50 SUDEP outside the bathtub, and Japanese forensic autopsy data as controls. Results: Extension of the leg(s)outside the bathtub was seen in 33% of SDEPB, but none of SDnonEPB. Sitting position was seen less frequently in SDEPB (37%)than in SDnonEPB (64%). Lung weight and pleural effusion volume were significantly lower in SDEPB than in SDnonEPB. Age at death in SDEPB was significantly younger than that in SDnonEPB. Sudden death in epilepsy occurring in the bathtub showed no differences in lung weight and pleural effusion volume from SUDEP. Living with family was more frequent in SDEPB (73%)than in SUDEP (48%). Few antiepileptic drugs, infrequent seizures, and low rate of mental retardation were identical between SDEPB and SUDEP. Lung weight was significantly heavier in all three groups than in age- and sex- matched autopsy controls. Conclusions: Leg extension outside the bathtub, lower lung weight, and absence of pleural effusion distinguish SDEPB from SDnonEPB in elderly people. Sudden death in epilepsy occurring in the bathtub may represent a form of SUDEP occurring in the bathtub, rather than drowning despite submergence in the bathtub at discovery. Conditions for bathing require careful attention from physicians and relatives, even for patients with epilepsy with few medications and infrequent seizures, and without mental retardation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-40
Number of pages8
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jul


  • Autopsy
  • Bathtub
  • Drowning
  • Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy


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