What We Treat

If your child has epilepsy, you're not alone. It is one of the most common disorders of the nervous system and affects people of all ages, races and ethnic backgrounds. 

Epilepsy is a neurological disease. It happens when a person experiences sudden, reoccurring seizures. A person who has two or more seizures is considered to have epilepsy. There are many possible causes of epilepsy, including tumors, strokes, and brain damage from illness or injury. In many cases, there might be no detectable cause for epilepsy. 

Unlike adults, children and adolescents with seizure disorders undergo treatment during critical stages of their development. 

Seizures

The brain is the center that controls and regulates all voluntary and involuntary responses in the body. It consists of nerve cells that normally communicate with one another through electrical activity.

A seizure occurs when parts of the brain receive a burst of abnormal electrical signals that temporarily interrupt normal electrical brain function. During an epileptic seizure, the neurons may fire as many times as 500 times a second, compared to a normal rate of 80 times a second.

For some people, seizures only happen occasionally; for others, it may happen up to hundreds of times a day.

Types of seizures

There are several different types of seizures in children, including the following:

Partial (focal) seizures

This type of seizure takes place when abnormal electrical brain function occurs in one or more areas of one side of the brain. In about one-third of children with partial seizures, the child may experience an aura before the seizure occurs. An aura is a strange feeling, consisting of either visual changes, hearing abnormalities or changes in the sense of smell. Two types of partial seizures include:

  • Simple partial seizures: This type of seizure typically last less than a minute. The child might show different symptoms depending on which area of the brain is involved. If the abnormal electrical brain function is in the occipital lobe (the back part of the brain that is involved with vision), the child's sight may be altered. The child's muscles are typically more commonly affected. The seizure activity is limited to an isolated muscle group, such as fingers, or to larger muscles in the arms and legs. Consciousness is not lost in this type of seizure. The child might also experience sweating or nausea or become pale.
  • Complex partial seizures: This type of seizure commonly occurs in the temporal lobe of the brain, the area that controls emotion and memory function. These seizures usually lasts one to two minutes. Consciousness is usually lost during these seizures, and a variety of behaviors can occur. These behaviors can range from gagging, lip smacking, running, screaming, crying or laughing. When the child regains consciousness, he might complain of being tired or sleepy after the seizure. This is called the postictal period.

Generalized seizures

Generalized seizures involve both sides of the brain. There is loss of consciousness and a postictal state after the seizure occurs. Types of generalized seizures include:

  • Absence seizures (also called petit mal seizures): These seizures are characterized by a brief altered state of consciousness and staring episodes. Typically, the child's posture is maintained during the seizure. The mouth or face may move, or the eyes may blink. These seizures usually last no longer than 30 seconds. When the seizure is over, the child might not recall what just occurred and might go on with his activities, acting as though nothing happened. These seizures can occur several times a day. This type of seizure is sometimes mistaken for a learning problem or behavioral problem. Absence seizures almost always start between ages 4 and 12.
  • Atonic (also called drop attacks): With atonic seizures, there is a sudden loss of muscle tone, and the child can fall from a standing position or suddenly drop his head. During the seizure, the child is limp and unresponsive.
  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizures (also called grand mal seizures): This type of seizure is characterized by five distinct phases. The body, arms and legs will flex (contract), extend (straighten out), tremor (shake), a clonic period (contraction and relaxation of the muscles) will occur and the postictal period will occur. During the postictal period, the child might be sleepy, have problems with vision or speech, and could have a bad headache, fatigue or body aches.
  • Myoclonic seizures: This type of seizure refers to quick movements or sudden jerking of a group of muscles. These seizures tend to occur in clusters, meaning that they may occur several times a day, or for several days in a row.
  • Infantile spasms: This rare type of seizure disorder can occur in infants anytime within the first 2 years of age. This seizure has a high occurrence rate when the child is waking, or when he is trying to go to sleep. The infant usually has brief periods of movement of the neck, trunk or legs that last for a few seconds. Infants can have hundreds of these seizures a day. This can be a serious problem, and can have long-term complications.
  • Febrile seizures: This type of seizure is associated with fever. These seizures are more commonly seen in children between 6 months and 5 years of age, and there might be a family history of this type of seizure. Febrile seizures that last less than 15 minutes are called "simple," and typically do not have long-term neurological effects. Seizures lasting more than 15 minutes are called "complex," and there might be long-term neurological changes in the child.

Causes of seizures

A child might experience one or many seizures. While the exact cause of the seizure might be unclear, the more common seizures are caused by certain identifiable factors:

In newborns and infants causes may include:

  • Birth trauma
  • Congenital (present at birth) problems
  • Fever
  • Metabolic or chemical imbalances in the body

In children, adolescents and young adults causes may include:

  • Alcohol or drugs
  • Trauma to the head
  • Infection
  • Unknown reasons

Other possible causes for seizures may include: 

  • A brain tumor
  • Neurological problems such as drug withdrawal or medications
  • Tuberous sclerosis complex

Signs and symptoms of seizures

A seizure often changes how your child looks or acts. Seizures may cause your child to lose consciousness. Some children will not remember that the seizure happened. Other children will remember having the seizure.

Your child may experience one of more of these symptoms:

  • Falling 
  • Shaking or jerking 
  • Uncontrollable or involuntary muscle spasms 
  • Drooling from the mouth
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control 
  • Staring 
  • Confusion

Make an appointment

Please call 404-785-2186 to make an appointment.

Services We Offer

The goal of seizure management is to control, stop or decrease the frequency of the seizures without interfering with the child's normal growth and development. 

Other goals of seizure management include: 

  • Proper identification of the type of seizure 
  • Using medication specific to the type of seizure
  • Using the least amount of medication to achieve adequate control
  • Maintaining good medication levels

How we diagnose epilepsy

A seizure might not be completely understood right away, but tests can help find out more about their cause. Doctors can diagnose a seizure with a physical examination and tests. 

We use advanced diagnosis, treatment and neuroimaging technology to provide better outcomes for your child. Our team provides unique treatment options based on each child's condition and needs. 

Learn more about our evaluations and diagnostic tests

How we treat seizures

Specific treatment for a seizure will be determined by your child's physician based on:

  • Your child's age, overall health and medical history
  • Extent of the condition 
  • Type of seizure 
  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies 
  • Expectations for the course of the condition 
  • Your opinion or preference

Some treatments we offer include:

Ketogenic diet

Some children who are having problems with medications, or whose seizures are not being well controlled, might be placed on this special diet.

Learn more about ketogenic diet

Medications

There are many types of medications used to treat seizures and epilepsy. Doctors select medications based on the type of seizure, age of the child, side effects, cost of medication and the adherence with the use of the medication. 

Neuropsychology

Neuropsychology is a subspecialty of psychology concerned with the relationship between the brain and behavior, including the diagnosis of brain pathology through the use of psychological tests and assessment techniques. 

Learn more about neuropsychology

Epilepsy surgery

One possible treatment option for some types of seizures is surgery. Surgery may be considered for a child who has:

  • Seizures that cannot be controlled with medicine
  • Seizures that always start in one area of the brain
  • A seizure in a part of the brain that can be removed without disrupting important behaviors such as speech, memory or vision

Surgery for epilepsy is a complicated process performed by a specialized surgical team. The operation may remove the part of the brain where the seizures are occurring or in some cases, the surgery helps to stop the spread of the bad electrical currents through the brain. Epilepsy surgery is not an option for everyone with seizures.

Epilepsy surgery at Children's
We are a Level 4 Pediatric Epilepsy Center, the highest designation by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers, meaning we provide a complete spectrum of care for the most complex cases. Nearly 85 percent of our patients are either seizure-free or have substantially reduced number of seizures after surgery. Our pediatric-trained epileptologists, neuropsychologists and neurosurgeons collaborate on surgical procedures to deliver coordinated care and expertise to our patients.

Vagus nerve stimulation

Some children, whose seizures cannot be well-controlled with seizure medicines, may benefit from a procedure called Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS).

VNS attempts to control seizures by sending small pulses of electrical current to the brain from a pulse generator attached to the vagus nerve. This is done by placing a small battery or generator into the chest wall. Small wires are then attached to the battery and placed under the skin and around the vagus nerve. The battery is programmed to send an electrical current to the brain every few minutes. When the child feels a seizure starting, he or a caregiver may activate the device by holding a small magnet over the battery. In many people, this will help to stop or shorten the seizure.

VNS does have some side effects. These are limited to the time of stimulation, and may include, but are not limited to:

  • Hoarseness
  • Pain or discomfort in the throat

Our Unique Approach

Our pediatric neurologists recognize and treat the special needs of infants, children and adolescents who have epilepsy. Your child will be treated by specialists who care for hundreds of patients who have intractable (difficult-to-control) epilepsy each year.

About our center

  • We specialize in diagnosis and treatment of children with difficult-to-control epilepsy (also known as refractory or intractable epilepsy)
  • Our physicians have completed extra certifications and training for epilepsy
  • We offer advanced technology to help control epileptic seizures with minimal side effects
  • We use medical and surgical evaluation, in addition to the ketogenic diet, based on the individual needs of each child

National recognition

The National Association of Epilepsy Centers (NAEC) recognizes us as a Level 4 epilepsy center. Level 4 epilepsy centers have the professional expertise and facilities to provide the highest level of medical and surgical evaluation and treatment for patients with complex epilepsy.

Learn about NAEC

We are an accredited EEG Lab

Our EEG lab is accredited by the EEG Laboratory Accreditation Board of ABRET (LAB-EEG), which means we perform EEGs to the highest standards.We are the second hospital in Georgia and the 11th pediatric hospital in the country to achieve accreditation.

Learn about the EEG Laboratory Accreditation Board of ABRET

Family support services

When a child is diagnosed with an illness, it affects every member of the family. Our center offers support groups for both parents and children who are dealing with epilepsy. In collaboration with Camp Twin Lakes, we also offer Camp Carpe Diem for patients with epilepsy and other seizure disorders.

Learn more about our epilepsy support group

Attend our Epilepsy Education Conference for Families