CNS Drugs

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 180–192 | Cite as

Childhood Epilepsy

Current Therapeutic Recommendations
  • Jamie T. Gilman
  • Michael Duchowny
Practical Therapeutics


The pharmacotherapy of epilepsy in children must account for a number of specific issues. The nature of epileptic disorders found in children differs from that in adults. For example, epilepsies of childhood are more likely to be developmentally or genetically based than those found in adults. Children also differ from adults in indications for antiepileptic drugs. Indeed, some types of childhood epilepsy do not require specific pharmacological treatment since prognosis is often excellent without therapy. This is especially true for children who are neurologically nonnal and those with benign epilepsy syndromes that have a characteristic electroclinical presentation, such as febrile seizures. In contrast, children with evidence of brain damage or those with serious epilepsy syndromes must be treated promptly.

Once it has been decided that treatment is necessary, the choice of treatment should be based on a comparison of efficacy and tolerability of individual antiepileptic agents. The spectrum of toxicity is often different in younger patients from that in adults, and adverse effects that are acceptable in adults may be cause for discontinuation of therapy in children. Intellectual, cognitive and behavioural toxicity are particularly unacceptable.

Establishing sustained therapeutic serum concentrations in children also requires specific attention. Rapid gastrointestinal transit times and interactions with milk and infant formulas may pose special management problems. Toxic metabolites of antiepileptic drugs are frequently produced in children. This can lead to drug hypersensitivity and other possible conditions, such as valproic acid (sodium valproate)-induced hepatotoxicity.

Unless specific paediatric data are obtained, recommendations for the treatment of epilepsies in children will continue to be based on studies in adults and on anecdotal observations. Given the high prevalence and significant morbidity of childhood epilepsies, further studies of treatments are urgently needed.


Carbamazepine Valproic Acid Lamotrigine Vigabatrin Febrile Seizure 
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Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jamie T. Gilman
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michael Duchowny
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Neuroscience and Comprehensive Epilepsy CenterMiami Children’s HospitalMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Division of Clinical Pharmacology and Pharmacokinetics LaboratoryMiami Children’s HospitalMiamiUSA

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