Expert Help for Kids Who Have New Onset Seizures

It is frightening when children have seizures. Unfortunately, these potentially life-changing medical events are more common than many parents realize.

“Some children appear completely healthy before having an unexpected seizure,” says Ingrid Tuxhorn, MD, Chief, Division of Pediatric Epilepsy at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. “In fact, about 3 to 5 percent of kids have seizures.”

Now, kids can get expert diagnostic services, referrals, treatment and follow-up care at the New Onset Seizure Clinic at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. The new outpatient program offers rapid access to expert care and was developed as part of the hospital’s increased focus on pediatric neurology and epilepsy. It is the first program in the Cleveland area to provide coordinated, in-depth and timely care to children who suffer a first seizure.

Exceptional, Prompt and Compassionate Care

“Parents can make an appointment at the New Onset Seizure Clinic and have their children see specialists within a day or two after the first seizure,” Dr. Tuxhorn says. The program’s multidisciplinary staff includes physicians who specialize in pediatric neurology and epilepsy, an epilepsy nurse coordinator, pediatric nurse practitioners and social workers.

The initial evaluation involves taking a detailed and complete medical history and performing a physical examination to assess the type of seizure the child has experienced. As part of the discovery process, physicians look for factors that may indicate why the child has suddenly started having seizures. Specialized testing may include:

  • A magnetic resonance imaging test, to give physicians a clear view of the brain
  • A video electroencephalogram test that records and measures brain activity to pinpoint the region of the brain where seizures begin

An interdisciplinary team of referral experts is available at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital for other evaluations that may be needed. For example, some children may also need cardiac workups or further laboratory tests.

During these evaluations, the team:

  • Confirms the child had a seizure and not a condition that may mimic a seizure
  • Works to identify the cause of seizures
  • Refers patients to appropriate specialists to treat underlying brain conditions causing the seizures
  • Determines patients’ risk for future seizures and epilepsy
  • Initiates appropriate medical treatment, if needed
  • Counsels the family on how to handle a seizure
  • Counsels on appropriate behaviors to reduce injury risk and maintain safety in the home and at school
  • Counsels adolescents on safety, including driving issues and behaviors that can reduce seizure risks, such as sleep regulation

“Thanks to improved treatments, epilepsy is a very treatable disorder,” Dr. Tuxhorn says. “Most patients do very well with anti-seizure medications, and 60 percent will respond to a first medication. Surgery is also an option for some patients.”

Individualized Education and Support

Staff members at the New Onset Seizure Clinic develop individualized plans for children based on the cause of their seizure and their risk for future seizures. Specialists can help identify triggers that may have caused or contributed to the seizures. Avoiding those triggers may help reduce the risk of recurrent seizures. The team also may recommend that children avoid certain activities, such as sports or driving (for teens), to enhance their safety.

“We are providing patients with a new, highly coordinated level of care,” Dr. Tuxhorn says. “Most kids do very well when they have rapid access to seizure specialists. We provide families with information and support that reassures them, and helps them cope with a difficult situation and face the future with confidence.”

tuxhorn-ingrid Ingrid Tuxhorn, MD
Division of Pediatric Epilepsy UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

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