Epilepsy

Our epilepsy program is one of only a few across the country with dedicated specialists and volunteers exclusively working with epileptic children. We are the only Level 4 pediatric epilepsy center in the state, which means we provide the highest level of complex and specialist care for children living with epilepsy, including particularly intractable forms of the disease.

Through a combination of therapies, including brain surgery and diet, you can expect a higher level of care than centers without the Level 4 distinction.

Our Pediatric Epilepsy Monitoring Unit allows specialists to observe your child and to record brain activity over several days. The information our specialists gain allows us to provide the exact treatment that best suits your child.

What is epilepsy?

Epileptic disorders are a collection of problems in the brain’s electrical functioning. The brain controls and communicates with the rest of the body using electrical messages, much like a computer.

Sometimes the brain receives a short burst of abnormal electrical activity that briefly disturbs its normal functioning. These periods, called seizures, may be mild, like a short change in consciousness, or they can be dramatic and include violent spasms of the entire body or a sudden slump.

There are two primary types of seizure disorders: partial and general. Partial seizures start and occur in one part of the brain, while general seizures may happen in both sides. Both kinds have subtypes that further subdivide these categories.

Sometimes epileptic incidents develop into continuous, non-stop seizures called status epilepticus. If your child seizes continuously without stopping, this is a medical emergency, and you should seek care immediately.

Your child’s risk of seizure is highest before his or her first birthday. Between three and five percent of children may experience a seizure. There are a number of seizure symptoms to look for, though your child may not experience all of them.

10 warning signs of a seizure

  • Sleepiness and irritability in the morning
  • Staring or rapid blinking
  • Confusion
  • Head nodding
  • Periods where your child is unresponsive to talking or to noise
  • Difficulty breathing or even stopping breathing entirely
  • Dropping suddenly and for no reason
  • Stiffening of the body
  • Jerky movements of the arms and legs
  • Loss of control over bladder and/or bowels
  • Loss of consciousness

Diagnosis & treatment

At Children’s, our specialists create a custom treatment program to match your child’s health and medical history. Dependent upon what kind of seizure your child experiences and the severity, we will recommend a variety of therapies.

Pediatric Epilepsy Monitoring Unit

Diagnosis often includes briefly admitting your child to the hospital for video EEG monitoring in our Pediatric Epilepsy Monitoring Unit. This is a painless and noninvasive procedure that translates your child’s electrical brain activity into a digital format.

Combined with a digital video recording taken at the same time, our specialists gather a continuous record of your child’s seizures over the course of several days. During this time, we monitor these recordings 24 hours a day. Through these tests, combined with additional neuropsychological testing and functional MRI, PET & SPECT scans of your child’s brain, we are able to precisely diagnose the type, frequency, and location of your child’s seizures.

Read more about our Pediatric Epilepsy Monitoring Unit >> 

A personalized treatment plan

Once we have a full understanding of your child’s unique epileptic condition, we begin working to reduce or eliminate the number of seizures.

There have been many advancements in the treatment of epilepsy in recent years. Many forms of epilepsy can be treated through the use of increasingly effective seizure medications, the use of vagal nerve stimulation implants (that act similarly to pacemakers) or through modifications to diet.

At Children’s, our Pediatric Epilepsy Program promotes the ketogenic diet. This is a special high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that our clinical research and experts have shown us helps control seizures in many children with epilepsy. Often children are able to take less medication by making some relatively simple changes to their diets.

Surgical treatment for epilepsy

Sometimes diet, medication and implantation are not enough to control your child’s seizures. In these cases, brain surgery may be the best option. The Pediatric Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at Children’s is one of the leading epilepsy surgery programs in the country, performing over 40 epilepsy surgeries a year.

Caring and knowledgeable specialists are even available to help your child with the personality changes and learning problems that often accompany epilepsy. The good news is that most children that receive treatment are able to live normal, active lives with only a few simple modifications.