Epilepsy in rural South African children prevalence, associated disability and management

  • A L Christianson
  • M E Zwane
  • P Manga
  • E Rosen
  • A Venter
  • J G R Kromberg


Objective. To determine the prevalence of epilepsy and its associated disabilities in rural South African children aged 2 - 9 years.
Setting. Eight villages in the district of Bushbuckridge, Northern Province, South Africa_
Design. A two-phase design was used_ The first phase involved screening children on a house-to-house baSis by interviewing mothers or caregivers using an internationally validated questionnaire for detecting childhood disability in developing countries. The second phase consisted of a paediatric/ neurodevelopmental assessment of the children who screened positive.
Results. A total of 6692 children were screened; 722 (10.8%) had a paediatric evaluation and 49 (0.73%) had epilepsy. The· lifetime and active prevalences of epilepsy in these children were 7.3/1 000 and 6.7/1 000 respectively. Associated developmental disability was recorded in 35 affected children (71.4%), including 8 (16.3%) in whom this was moderate to severe. More than a half of the children with epilepsy (57.1%) did not receive anticonvulsant medication.
Conclusion. The prevalence of epilepsy in the rural childhood population investigated is higher than that recorded in most similar studies from sub-Saharan Africa, and the poor utilisation of 'appropriate anticonvulsant treatment is cause for concern. This study highlights the paucity of relevant information on the epidemiology of epilepsy in South Africa and that the system available for its management, especially in rural areas, appears to have functional deficiencies. Appropriate research is needed to identify the problems in service delivery and to enable the planning and implementation of an appropriate primary health care-based system for the diagnosis and management of epilepsy in children.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135