A team of scientists in the Netherlands have developed a new wearable device, called Nightwatch, which can detect severe night-time epilepsy seizures.

According to the scientists, the wearable is more effective than other technology available and can effectively reduce the rate of unexpected night-time fatalities in epilepsy patients.

Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is a major cause of mortality in epilepsy patients. Although there are several techniques for monitoring patients at night, such as a bed sensor that reacts to vibrations due to rhythmic jerks, many attacks are still being missed.

Nightwatch aims to address SUDEP by recognising two essential characteristics of severe attacks: an abnormally fast heartbeat (using a heart rate sensor), and rhythmic jolting movements (using a motion sensor). In such cases, the wearable will send a wireless alert to carers or nurses.

In a paper published in the scientific journal Neurology, the research team published the results of a prospective trial where they tested the wearable in 28 intellectually handicapped epilepsy patients over an average of 65 nights per patient.

The wearable was restricted to sounding an alarm in the event of a severe seizure. The patients were also filmed to check if there were any false alarms or attacks that Nightwatch might have missed. The comparison showed that the wearable detected 85% of all serious attacks and 96% of the most severe ones (tonic-clonic seizures).

During the study, the bed sensor technology was also tested, which in comparison to Nightwatch only signalled 21% of serious attacks. On average, the bed sensor therefore remained silent once every four nights per patient. Nightwatch, on the other hand, only missed a serious attack per patient once every 25 nights on average.

The study also indicated that the patients did not complain of discomfort when wearing the wearable, and the care staff were also positive about the use of Nightwatch.

“These results show that Nightwatch works well,” said Neurologist and research lead, Professor Johan Arends.

“Nightwatch can now be widely used among adults, both in institutions and at home,” continued Prof Arends.

Prof Arends expects that the use of Nightwatch may reduce the number of cases of SUDEP by two-thirds, although this also depends on how quickly and adequately care providers or informal carers respond to the alerts.

Nightwatch was developed by a consortium with the following members: Kempenhaeghe epilepsy centre, Eindhoven University of Technology, the Foundation for Epilepsy Institutions in the Netherlands (SEIN), UMC Utrecht, the Epilepsy Fund, patient representatives and LivAssured. This company has been established to market Nightwatch and has been involved in the R&D since 2014.

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