Dr Yi-Chen LaiDr. Yi-Chen Lai, Associate Professor of Pediatrics in the Section of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine (PCCM) at Texas Children’s Hospital and Safar Center T32 graduate was awarded an R21 from NINDS to study early mortality due to sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). This important problem has an incidence of 1.2/1000 patient-years in individuals with epilepsy. The risk of SUDEP increases with increasing epilepsy duration. Thus, there may be progressive changes underlying SUDEP risk.

Dr. Lai will examine whether progressive cardiac changes occur as a function of epilepsy duration. He will prospectively follow a cohort of pediatric epilepsy patients without a known ion channelopathy or cardiac disease using the electrocardiogram as a surrogate marker, focusing on abnormalities in the ST segment or T wave and the corrected QT (QTc) interval. Abnormal QTc interval is common in epilepsy. His study seeks to identify early, modifiable SUDEP risk factors in childhood-onset epilepsy with the goal of shifting the current research and clinical focus from the acute peri-mortem processes to the chronic alterations occurring in the preceding years. His work will also apply the well-known concepts of myocardial remodeling and cardiac vulnerability from the primary cardiac pathology to epilepsy research.

Dr. Lai completed his pediatric residency and PCCM fellowship at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in 2004, and T32 fellowship research training under the mentorship of Dr. Robert Clark in 2006. Congratulations to Dr. Lai for this award!