What can be Done to Control Seizures in Children With Cerebral Palsy?

Seizures in children with cerebral palsy (CP) are fairly common. It is estimated that about 50% of children with CP have some type of seizures and 25-35% have epilepsy. Although seizures are only one of the issues associated with CP, they can be frightening, disruptive and possibly harmful to the brain for the children who have them.

Seizure Treatments

There are several methods used to control seizures in CP. Sometimes it may take a combination of one or more options to find a treatment option that works best for the particular seizures a child is having. It often is a trial and error process to find out which method will work best for the child.

  • Medications. There are many effective anti-seizure medications for epilepsy and seizures disorders associated with CP. As with most medications, there are side effects that have to be managed as well. Most parents will need to work with their doctor to find the medication that best suppresses the seizures and has the least side effects for the particular child.
  • Dietary Options. If medications do not work, there are dietary options that may benefit the child with CP seizures. Some children do well on a ketogenic diet, which is a diet regimen that is higher in fat and lower in proteins and carbohydrates. This alters the body’s metabolism and increases the ketone bodies in the system that can suppress seizures.
  • Surgery. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended to remove the brain tissue when the seizures originate to control the seizures and stop the spread of the problem.
  • Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS). This is a fairly new treatment that is used for seizures that do not respond to other treatments. It involves inserting a pacemaker under the skin that delivers small pulses of electricity to the vagal nerve.
What to Do When a Seizure Occurs

Once a seizure starts, it must progress until it finishes. The old method for grand mal seizures was to give the patient something to bite down on or to suppress their tongue. This is no longer recommended. Nothing should be put in the child’s mouth when they are having a seizure. There are a few things to keep in mind when handling a seizure.

  • Safety first. The most important thing you can do is to make sure the child does not harm his or her self while having a seizure. Do not try to hold the child or stop the movements. Instead, help them lie down on their side, supporting their head on a soft surface cleared of any obstacles that they could hit. Loosen any tight clothing that could be restricting.
  • Watch their breathing. Make sure they are breathing and be prepared to do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if necessary
  • Call 911. If the child stops breathing, changes color, had repetitive seizures one after another, or the seizure lasts more than 15 minutes, call 911 or for medical assistance.

Controlling seizures in children with CP is challenging but there are treatments that can reduce their severity and frequency. With patience and help from a medical team that is familiar with CP and seizures, there is hope to giving the child a better quality of life.

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