Epilepsy and Seizures (Pediatric)

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures, and is common in children. It affects kids at different ages and in different degrees, from mild and easy to control to a severe, lifelong problem. The Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at the University of Michigan is a Level 4 Certified Epilepsy Center, which is the highest certification available from the National Association of Epilepsy Centers. Our dedicated pediatric team comprehensively diagnoses and treats children experiencing all types of seizures.

Epilepsy Symptoms

Seizures are caused by abnormal bursts of electrical activity in the brain. They usually don't last very long, but they can be scary. Seizures may cause problems with:

  • Muscle control
  • Movement
  • Speech and Language
  • Vision
  • Awareness

The good news is that treatment usually works to control seizures. In children with epilepsy, about 70 percent, can obtain control of their seizures with one medication. Of patients who have seizures, 70 percent control their seizures with one medication.

Our state-of-the-art pediatric EEG facility, opening in November 2011, will provide outpatient EEGs for children of all ages. In addition to routine EEG studies (usually lasting less than one hour), we also provide outpatient short-term (6-hour) and ambulatory EEG monitoring for pediatric patients.

We use the latest techniques in brain imaging, such as computerized x-ray tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) scans to investigate the cause of the epilepsy.

Through these imaging techniques, our team is often able to establish the location and cause of a child’s seizures. It also allows us to sort out the appropriate epilepsy syndrome and make a correct diagnosis.

Children experiencing neuropsychological problems or difficulties with school performance may be referred to the Pediatric Neuropsychology Program for neuropsychological testing, clinical evaluation or therapy.

We see approximately 1,500 pediatric patients each year, and admit an average of three to five pediatric patients weekly to our inpatient monitoring unit. Admissions for EEG monitoring are ordered for several reasons, including for diagnosis (to decide if a child’s episodes are seizures), seizure classification (what kind of seizures he or she is having), and for epilepsy surgery evaluations. We also provide EEG monitoring for critically ill newborns and children in the C.S.Mott Children’s Hospital intensive care units.

Each week, our Comprehensive Epilepsy Team, made up of our board certified pediatric and adult epilepsy faculty, neurosurgeons, speech pathologists, neuropsychologists, neuroradiologists and social workers, meet to discuss patients being evaluated for epilepsy and make the best treatment decision for each patient. It’s an important opportunity to collect feedback and expertise from the entire epilepsy team.

Help for Children with Poorly Controlled Epilepsy

Our Pediatric Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy team provides evaluation and treatment for children with poorly controlled epilepsy. When medications don’t adequately control seizures, a number of other treatment options are available:

  • Vagus nerve stimulation is a new therapy for treating seizures that are resistant to epilepsy medications, and involves placement of a small stimulator under the skin in the chest. The stimulator is attached to a small lead, which is then attached to the vagus nerve in the left side of the neck. The stimulator provides an electrical signal on and off throughout the day. For many, this causes a substantial improvement in seizure frequency and severity.
  • The ketogenic diet is for selected patients with difficult to control epilepsy, providing improved seizure control. Our pediatric neurologists and dieticians work closely together to determine which children might benefit from the diet, to educate the parents about the diet, and to help the families initiate and manage the diet.
  • Surgery can, in some cases, provide a cure for children with continued, disabling seizures despite medical therapy. In other cases, surgical therapy, while not curative, can significantly reduce the frequency of seizures and improve quality of life.

Epilepsy Research

Our Pediatric Epilepsy physicians are also involved in clinical research. Our physicians are involved in research around seizures in newborn infants, in outcomes of treatments of epilepsy, as well as national research efforts that focus on the genetics of epilepsy.

Schedule an appointment by calling 734-936-4179.