Pediatric Epilepsy Surgery

  • Medical Author: Norberto Alvarez, MD
  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Quick GuideEpilepsy: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Epilepsy: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

How is epilepsy treated?

The main line of treatment is with antiepileptic drugs, which are effective in controlling seizures in 70%-80% of patients with epilepsy. There are several antiepileptic medications. Since certain medications are much better for some seizures, the choice of the medication should be made by a physician who is familiar with these medications. If possible, the child should be evaluated in a center specializing in epilepsy. If this is not feasible, usually pediatric neurologists have training in epileptic disorders and are a good source for a referral.

When antiepileptic drugs fail to control the seizures, the patients may improve with surgical procedures.

Who is a candidate for epilepsy surgery?

Surgery is indicated in a small group of children.

It usually takes the failure of two or three antiepileptic medications before a child would be considered as a potential candidate for surgery. In general, this happens at least after two or three years of continuous treatment with medications. The failure might be due:

  1. to a resistance to the antiepileptic medications that are available,
  2. to the presence of intolerable side effects to the antiepileptic medication,
  3. or a combination of both.

Since surgical procedures might be very effective in some children, once it is clear that the child's epileptic disorder is not responding to treatment with antiepileptic medications, surgery should be considered. Young age is not a contraindication for surgery, and there is no benefit in waiting for the child to be older. In fact, there is considerable evidence that the younger a child is at the time of surgery, the better his/her potential will be for good function after the surgery. There is a certain degree of plasticity in the brain that helps with the recovery of functions that can be damaged at the time of surgery. This plasticity is higher in younger than in older children.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/12/2016

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