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Seizure Disorder—Child

(Disorder, Seizure—Child; Epilepsy—Child)

Definition

A seizure is abnormal electrical activity in the brain. A seizure disorder is when 2 or more seizures happen. This is also known as epilepsy.
Generalized Seizure
Generalized seizure
Abnormal and excessive electrical activity in the brain.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

Seizure disorder is caused by abnormal brain function. It can be hard to find the cause. Some things that may play a role are:
  • Genetic disorders
  • Brain abnormalities or harm, such as infection, trauma, tumor, or bleeding into the brain

Risk Factors

Things that may raise a child's risk are:
  • Premature birth or low birth weight
  • Damage to the brain during birth
  • Abnormal brain structure
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Brain infection
  • Brain tumor
  • History of seizures due to fevers
  • Seizure within the first month after birth
  • Family history of seizure disorder

Symptoms

Symptoms depend on the type of disorder a child has. They may be:
  • Aura—a feeling at the start of a seizure, such as an odd smell or sound or spots in front of the eyes
  • Staring, eye blinking, or eye rolling
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Jerking of a limb
  • Jerking of muscles
  • Hand rubbing, lip smacking, or picking at clothing
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Feeling very tired or confused after a seizure

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
An electroencephalogram (EEG) will be done to confirm the diagnosis. It looks at the electrical activity of the brain.
Images of the brain and structures around it may also be taken to confirm the diagnosis. This can be done with:

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to control seizures and improve quality of life. Treatments choices are:

Medication

There are medicines that are used to manage seizure disorder. The medicines that are chosen depend on the type of seizures and symptoms a child has. Antiepileptic medicines are a common choice. In some children, more than 1 medicine may be used.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

With VNS, a device is implanted in the chest to give electrical stimulation to the vagus nerve. This nerve runs from the brain to beyond the stomach. VNS can prevent seizures or make them happen less often. Medicine may still be needed.

Ketogenic Diet

A ketogenic diet is very strict. It is high in fat and low in carbohydrates and proteins. It can decrease the frequency of seizures. Since children need proper nutrients, a dietitian will need to be involved.

Surgery

Surgery may be done if medicine does not help or causes too many side effects. It removes the area of the brain that starts the seizure. Surgery is only an option if the child has specific parts of the brain involved.

Prevention

There are no known ways to prevent seizure disorder.

RESOURCES

Epilepsy Foundation
http://www.epilepsy.com
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
http://www.ninds.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Center for Epilepsy and Seizure Education
http://epilepsy.cc
Epilepsy Ontario
http://www.epilepsyontario.org

References

Epilepsy. American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aans.org/Patient%20Information/Conditions%20and%20Treatments/Epilepsy.aspx. Accessed December 31, 2019.
Epilepsy in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/epilepsy-in-children. Updated March 22, 2018. Accessed December 31, 2019.
Moshé SL, Perucca E, et al. Epilepsy: new advances. Lancet. 2015 Mar 7;385(9971):884-898.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2019
  • Update Date: 06/10/2020
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