Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes seizures or episodes of unusual behavior, sensations and sometimes loss of awareness. It is caused by abnormal brain activity.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of epilepsy depend on the type of seizure. The most common symptoms include:
- Temporary confusion
- Staring for a period of time
- Jerking movements of the arms and legs that cannot be controlled
- Loss of awareness or consciousness
- Fear or anxiety
- Déjà vu
There are different treatment options depending on the severity of your child’s epilepsy:
- Anti-seizure medication
- Epilepsy surgery Your child may need this surgery if they have medically refractory epilepsy (uncontrolled seizures). Patients who are still having breakthrough seizures despite being on multiple medications are considered for surgery to improve their quality of life.
- Formal brain surgery This procedure removes the source of the seizures through open surgery, which may lead to a permanent cure. Formal brain surgery is similar to brain tumor surgery. Sometimes patients have a diagnostic surgery initially. During this surgery, electrodes in the form of grids, strips or leads are placed in the brain, and patients are monitored for approximately one week to help identify the exact areas of damaged brain that need to be removed to prevent seizures. If your child needs a diagnostic surgery, they will stay in the hospital between the two operations. They will be completely asleep for both operations.
- Lesioning procedures This procedure burns small locations of the brain to assist in surgical removal, and will not likely lead to a permanent cure. Lesioning procedures require your child to have a stereotactic frame placed on their head and a special MRI done prior to going to the operating room. They will be asked to perform certain tasks in the operating room to increase the safety of the operation. Your child will typically stay one to two nights after surgery.
- Stimulation This is a procedure where specific locations in the brain are stimulated to decrease and manage the seizures, but it is not likely to permanently cure. Your child will be completely asleep for any of these procedures. For the vagal nerve stimulator (VNS), they will go home the same day of the procedure. VNS surgery is performed on two locations: the neck and the chest. For deep brain stimulation (DBS), your child will typically stay one to two nights after surgery. DBS surgery is performed on two locations: the brain and the chest. In both surgeries, there will be a battery (generator) placed in the chest similar to a pacemaker.