How is pediatric epilepsy treated?

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Treatments offered for epilepsy include medication and dietary therapy. They also include electrical stimulation and several surgical options for children whose seizures cannot be controlled any other way.

A number of antiepileptic medications may be considered, depending on factors specific to each patient, such as which side effects are tolerated by the patient and which delivery method is acceptable.

For difficult-to-control (refractory) epilepsy, physicians may prescribe a ketogenic diet – one that is a high fat, low carbohydrate, and high protein diet. The ketogenic diet forces the body to burn fat rather than carbohydrates. Normally, the carbohydrates in food are converted into glucose, which is particularly important in fueling the brain. However, if there is very little carbohydrate in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies that pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source. When the body produces ketone bodies – a state known as ketosis – this has an anticonvulsant effect. Every step of the ketogenic diet process must be managed by an experienced treatment team.

When diet or two to three medications fail to control a child's seizures, surgical intervention may be recommended. During surgery, additional techniques such as electrocortiography and brain mapping are used to identify and avoid injury to sites of language, motor, and sensory function during surgery. Surgical procedures can be done directly on the brain or by implanting a stimulator of the vagus nerve in the neck (vagal nerve stimulation).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.