Markov modelling of treatment response in a 30-year cohort study of newly diagnosed epilepsy

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People with epilepsy have variable and dynamic trajectories in response to antiseizure medications. Accurately modelling long-term treatment response will aid prognostication at the individual level and health resource planning at the societal level. Unfortunately, a robust model is lacking. We aimed to develop a Markov model to predict the probability of future seizure-freedom based on current seizure state and number of antiseizure medication regimens trialled. We included 1795 people with newly diagnosed epilepsy who attended a specialist clinic in Glasgow, Scotland, between July 1982 and October 2012. They were followed up until October 2014 or death. We developed a simple Markov model, based on current seizure state only, and a more detailed model, based on both current seizure state and number of antiseizure medication regimens trialled. Sensitivity analyses were performed for the regimen-based states model to examine the effect of regimen changes due to adverse effects. The model was externally validated in a separate cohort of 455 newly diagnosis epilepsy patients seen in Perth, Australia, between May 1999 and May 2016. Our models suggested that once seizure-freedom was achieved, it was likely to persist, regardless of the number of antiseizure medications trialled to reach that point. The likelihood of achieving long-term seizure-freedom was highest with the first antiseizure medication regimen, at approximately 50%. The chance of achieving seizure-freedom fell with subsequent regimens. Fluctuations between seizure-free and not seizure-free states were highest earlier on but decreased with chronicity of epilepsy. Seizure-freedom/recurrence risk tables were constructed with these probability data, similar to cardiovascular risk tables. Sensitivity analyses showed that the general trends and conclusions from the base model were maintained despite perturbing the model and input data with regimen changes due to adverse effects. Quantitative comparison with the external validation cohort showed excellent consistency at Year 1, good at Year 3 and moderate at Year 5. Quantitative models, as used in this study, can provide pertinent clinical insights that are not apparent from simple statistical analysis alone. Attaining seizure freedom at any time in a patient's epilepsy journey will confer durable benefit. Seizure-freedom risk tables may be used to individualize the prediction of future seizure control trajectory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1326-1337
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • epilepsy
  • Markov
  • model
  • cohort
  • seizure-freedom

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