Seizing Epilepsy: Prognosis Is Excellent

Mayo Clinic researchers find positive long-term outcomes for certain children with epilepsy

December 6, 2010 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) After studying more than 200 children with epilepsy, researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that even if a patient has an unknown type of epilepsy and the cause of their seizures cannot be identified, the long-term prognosis is still extremely promising.

These findings were presented on December 4 at the American Epilepsy Society's annual meeting in San Antonio.

According to the The Epilepsy Foundation of America®, 200,000 new cases of epilepsy are diagnosed in the United States each year. In children under the age of 15, the incidence of epilepsy is 45,000 per year.

Between 1980 and 2004 Mayo Clinic researchers found 215 children from ages 1 month to 17 years with newly-diagnosed focal-onset seizures. Focal-onset seizures are produced in a small part of the brain instead of the whole brain. After reviewing medical records, imaging, EEG studies, treatments used and long-term outcomes, researchers categorized the children as having "symptomatic" epilepsy or "cryptogenic" epilepsy. If a genetic or structural/metabolic cause for their seizures was known, the children were categorized as symptomatic. They were categorized as cryptogenic if the cause of their seizures was unknown.

The researchers found that more than half of the children had cryptogenic epilepsy. Additionally, the cryptogenic epileptics had substantially better long-term outcomes than those with symptomatic epilepsy. In the final follow-up, 68 percent of the cryptogenic epileptics no longer had to take their medication, compared to 46 percent of symptomatic epileptics.

Elaine Wirrell, M.D., a Mayo Clinic epileptologist and an author of this study, says, "This study shows us that it is important to distinguish cryptogenic epilepsy from those children with symptomatic causes, as the prognosis can differ." In conclusion, Dr. Wirrell says, "We will continue to look at the data to see if we can identify specific genes responsible for some of these conditions in order to help us predict which children may have intractable epilepsy, or epilepsy that cannot be controlled by medications."

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Review Date: 
December 6, 2010
Last Updated:
December 8, 2010