Childhood epilepsy with a small number of seizures may be left untreated: an international prospective study

Willem F. Arts*, Ada T. Geerts, Oebele F. Brouwer, Cees A. van Donselaar, Hans Stroink, Boudewijn A. C. Peters, Els A. J. Peeters, Peter Camfield, Carol Camfield

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Aims. It is unknown whether treatment with antiepileptic drugs in children with epilepsy with a presumed good prognosis is always necessary. We aimed to study the course of newly diagnosed epilepsy in children with a presumed good prognosis who are managed without AED treatment.Methods. A total of 151 children (one month to 12 years of age) with two to five lifetime unprovoked seizures (excluding febrile convulsions), were followed for three years. Treatment was initially withheld. Children with symptomatic epilepsy, or absence or myoclonic epilepsy, were excluded. AED treatment was started after >10 lifetime seizures or an episode of status epilepticus during follow-up, or if the parents or treating physician deemed it otherwise necessary.Results. During follow-up, 113 children continued to meet our criteria for refraining from treatment with antiepileptic drugs, yet 30 started treatment at the request of the parents. Thirty-eight children at some time met the criteria to start treatment, but the parents of 16 declined treatment. In all, 99 (66%) children maintained the no-treatment regime. Ninety-eight children (65% of 151) reached terminal remission for at least one year, including 83 who did not receive antiepileptic drug treatment (84% of the untreated 99). Mean terminal remission was significantly longer in the group with a total of 10 seizures. Treatment did not increase the length of terminal remission. Adverse events, including traumatic injury, occurred equally in the treated and untreated children. Measures of quality of life suggested a better outcome in those without treatment.Conclusions. Children with newly diagnosed epilepsy with a presumed good prognosis may not need immediate AED treatment. Postponing treatment does not alter the chance of remission or the risk of accidents and adverse events and appears to be associated with a good quality of life.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)141-153
    Number of pages13
    JournalEpileptic disorders
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Apr-2019


    • childhood epilepsy
    • prognosis
    • no-treatment policy
    • antiepileptic drug
    • long-term evolution
    • DUTCH

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