What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a sudden, uncontrolled episode of excessive electrical activity in the brain. Like a lightning bolt in a clear summer sky. This electrical disturbance is called a seizure and can take many different forms. It can appear as a feeling, smell, flash of light or sensation, a loss of consciousness, sudden loss of muscle tone, or as a stiffening and rhythmic jerking of the legs and arms. Seizures can last a few seconds to hours.
Approximately five percent of children will have a seizure at some point in their lives. Pediatric epilepsy is typically not life-threatening. Medication to control the seizures is the first line of defense. People whose seizures are controlled by medication can lead relatively robust lives.
We Specialize in Treating Children
The Pediatric Epilepsy Unit at Children’s is a specialty unit that provides treatment and support services for children ages birth to 21 years with seizure disorders and their families. We provide diagnosis, medical and surgical treatment, and education, psychological, neuropsychological, and support services.
Treatment for epilepsy is designed to prevent seizures. It includes medication, surgery, vagus nerve stimulation, or special diet. Of these treatments, regular use of seizure-preventing drugs is by far the most common, and the first to be tried. Different drugs control different types of seizures. A medication that helps one person may not be effective for someone else. Whenever possible, doctors try to control seizures with just one drug.
A pharmacist with extensive knowledge of drug interactions, side effects, drug serum levels, and customized dosage of medications is part of the comprehensive team delivering the most up-to-date drug treatment options.
Seizure Control through Diet
A significant number of children with seizures are unable to attain control over their seizures with traditional treatment and with medication. The Ketogenic diet, which features a high-fat, adequate-protein, and very-low-carbohydrate ratio, offers a dietary means of attempting to control seizures. Patients are closely monitored during the fasting stage of the diet and a registered dietitian assists with planning and preparation of the meals for patients following a ketogenic diet. In the Pediatric Epilepsy Ketogenic Diet Program at Children’s – St. Paul, approximately two-thirds of our patients achieve at least a 50 percent improvement in their seizure control with the use of ketogenic diets.
The Largest Pediatric Epilepsy Center in the U.S.
Children’s Minnesota is dedicated solely to the treatment of children. The developmental styles and the needs of kids are very different from adults, so we treat them in a unit designed specifically for children. We are designated a Level 4 Epilepsy Center by The National Association of Epilepsy Centers (NAEC) which means we provide the highest-level of diagnosis and treatment options for children with epilepsy.
Our 12-bed unit is equipped to monitor and record patients’ EEG readings continually. We can spot the beginning of a seizure right away, which helps us locate where in the brain the seizure originates. This information is essential in developing patients’ care and treatment plans.
At Children’s, we treat the full range of pediatric patients: from those who have experienced a seizure and are seeking a diagnosis to those who have sought treatment elsewhere for pediatric epilepsy or another seizure disorder and have been unsuccessful in controlling their seizures. The length of stay varies, depending on the patient.
A Diverse Team of Pediatric Specialists
Patients in the epilepsy unit are cared for by a multi-disciplinary epilepsy team. Our staff includes: three pediatric epileptologists, 22 pediatric registered nurses who have received specialized training in pediatric epilepsy and seizure disorders, a pharmacist, nutritionists, physical and occupational therapists, EEG technicians, psychometrists, psychologists, child life professionals, and social workers dedicated to helping families with a place to stay while at the hospital, meal vouchers, and transportation to and from the hospital.
In addition, patients and their families can access the full range of support services provided by Children’s, including chaplains and individualized instruction provided by a licensed teacher. Having a teacher on-site helps ensure students won’t fall behind in their schoolwork if they are in the hospital for an extended stay. The teacher also works with staff to develop an appropriate education plan and can help monitor students and report any changes in students’ functioning due to medication or treatment.
Child Life Staff Support Children’s Development
The child life staff, trained in child development, help children understand and cope with medical treatments, which minimizes stress. They help support your child’s growth and development and sponsor a variety of activities such as making cookies or tending plants they start from seeds.
Some of our patients may need to stay for an extended time, so we provide activities and learning opportunities to make their days more enjoyable. Our unit has a playroom featuring items for children at all developmental levels, including familiar games they can play with other patients or family members and an extensive collection of videos.
Family Resource Center
The Family Resource Center is a quiet, comfortable place where families can gather information, resources and support. Services include customized research and reference assistance, computer use for Internet and e-mail access, and help applying for Medicaid and other financial assistance.