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Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children’s specialists at the Nemours Neuroscience Center provide comprehensive care in the evaluation and treatment of epilepsy in children as well as childhood and infant seizures. Our goal is to keep kids with epilepsy participating in school and other activities so that they can enjoy a playful, promising childhood.
Expert Care for Seizures and Epilepsy in Children
Using the most advanced diagnostic tools, techniques and equipment, at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children we bring together the medical training, expertise and judgment needed to address seizures and epilepsy in children — and we have been recognized with a Level 4 accreditation from the National Association of Epilepsy Centers (NAEC), meaning we have the professional expertise and facilities to provide the highest level of medical and surgical evaluation and treatment for patients with complex epilepsy.
There are many different kinds of seizures — some are more noticeable (convulsions and shaking) than others (visual hallucinations or strong emotions). Because of this, it’s important to determine whether your child has a form of epilepsy or if the seizures have some other cause.
Epilepsy in children is a brain disorder that causes seizures. A seizure happens when there’s a surge in the brain’s normal electrical activity, which often causes involuntary movements and other symptoms.
There are many different forms of epilepsy in children, including juvenile myoclonic epilepsy, benign rolandic epilepsy, rolandic epilepsy, and many others. Most kids respond well to anti-seizure medications or other kinds of treatment. That means, despite their condition, kids with epilepsy can often reach their full potential in school, family, community and social activities.
Although often there’s no known cause for seizures, at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children we’ll continue to investigate further to narrow down the possibilities and make a diagnosis so your child can get the right treatment, right away.
If your child is having seizures, we know it can be scary. But you can help us by providing as much information as possible about what you or others observe during a seizure. If possible, write down as many details as you can remember, including:
- where and when the episode(s) occurred
- what your child was doing just before
- how long the episode(s) lasted
- any abnormal or involuntary movements or behavior
A Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children pediatric neurologist will review this information and your child’s medical history, and perform a thorough neurological examination.
Diagnosing seizures and epilepsy in children requires considering (and ruling out) many possible causes. In addition to a detailed medical history and neurological examination, there are a few tests that can help us determine whether your child has epilepsy or seizures caused by something else. Tests may include:
- blood tests (glucose/blood sugar, complete blood count, electrolytes and liver and kidney function tests)
- electroencephalography/EEG (wires attached to the head with glue record electrical activity in the brain)
- brain imaging tests (CT or "CAT" scan, MRI and PET scans to look for brain/vessel malformations, tumors or scar tissue)
- spinal tap/lumbar puncture (to check for infections or other issues)
This information helps us determine, if possible, the cause of your child’s episodes so we can move toward an effective treatment.
These tests are easily arranged at the hospital on an outpatient basis. In some cases, we may need to schedule an overnight stay for long-term video EEG monitoring.
The treatment for epilepsy and seizures in children depends on the cause. If your child is diagnosed with epilepsy, our goal at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children will be to control the condition and minimize the impact of seizures on daily life. No single treatment for epilepsy works for every child, so our pediatric neurological specialists will consider all the unique factors that contribute to your child’s condition.
We may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
- Anti-seizure medications: Most kids respond well to this kind of therapy. Finding just the right medication and dosage may involve some adjustments and fine-tuning.
- Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS): Surgeons implant a small, long-lasting battery device in the chest, just under the skin. A tiny wire runs from the device to the left vagus nerve, which connects to the brain stem. The device delivers short bursts of electricity at regular intervals, which may help reduce the frequency and severity of your child’s seizures. Implanting the VNS device and wire requires general anesthesia and an overnight stay at the hospital.
- Ketogenic diet: This precise diet, rich in fats and low in carbohydrates and proteins, can help reduce epilepsy symptoms in some children. If this is right for your child, your Nemours neurology specialist and a nutritionist will guide you and your child about which foods to add and avoid.
- Pediatric epilepsy surgery: In extreme cases, and if other treatments don’t work for your child, the neurologists and neurosurgeons at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children can evaluate your child for possible epilepsy surgery to remove the part of the brain causing the seizure activity.
Certain types of epileptic seizures in children (excluding benign rolandic seizures) can cause damage to the brain, impacting cognitive functioning (the way your child learns), behavior, emotional wellness (depression and anxiety), social functioning and more.
This is why it’s important to properly diagnose and treat not only the seizures themselves, but also to monitor and manage any resulting effects they may have on mental health, intellect and learning. We do this through neuropsychological testing, behavioral health therapy and, among other things, education about the condition to help you (and teachers and other caregivers) to help your child reach the highest potential possible.
In addition to complete services available at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., our Nemours pediatric neurosurgery specialists provide inpatient care at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital for children in Philadelphia.
We also maintain regular outpatient appointment hours at satellite Nemours duPont Pediatrics locations throughout the Delaware Valley:
No matter where your child receives care at Nemours, your medical team (including your primary care provider) can access your child’s medical history, test results and visit notes anytime through our award-winning electronic health record system.
You can also view parts of your child's health records, communicate with your Nemours care team, make appointments, request prescription refills and more through our MyNemours online patient portal.
Coping and Support for Your Child and Family
The Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children provides an array of support services for your child and family. For example, we offer:
- patient and family education
- social work and mental health counseling
- Child Life services
- pastoral care
- convenient access to the Ronald McDonald House of Delaware
The Nemours Commitment to Family-Centered Care
At Nemours, we recognize the importance of the family in the care and healing process. We understand that no one knows your child better than you do — and that you’re one of the most important members of your child’s care team. That’s why we make every effort to include you in the process and to create a close relationship built on mutual respect, collaboration and education.