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Seizure Meds Can Be Safely Withdrawn From Kids With Epilepsy
Date:12/8/2008

Study finds relatively low risk of developing intractable disease

MONDAY, Dec. 8 (HealthDay News) -- It's generally safe to stop giving anti-seizure medication to children with epilepsy who've achieved seizure-freedom while on the medication, because these children aren't at high risk of later developing intractable epilepsy, a Mayo Clinic study finds.

Intractable epilepsy, which affects about 10 percent of children with epilepsy, is a condition in which medications alone don't control seizures and in which seizures have a disabling effect on the patient's quality of life.

"It is often recommended that children with epilepsy who become seizure-free on anti-seizure medications be withdrawn from the drugs to avoid side effects of long-term use. Those potential side effects include cognitive slowing, incoordination, weight change, behavioral decline, and liver damage," pediatric neurologist Dr. Katherine Nickels said in a Mayo news release. "However, few previous studies had examined the risk of intractable epilepsy following withdrawal of anti-seizure medication, and the reported risks varied widely."

In this study, Nickels and colleagues reviewed the records of 152 children, ages 1 month to 16 years, who were diagnosed with new-onset epilepsy between 1990 and 2000 and treated with anti-seizure medication. Of those children, 56 (37) percent achieved seizure-freedom and were taken off their medication.

After an average follow-up of eight years, 20 of the 56 children experienced at least one seizure recurrence. Fifteen of those 20 children re-started treatment with anti-seizure medication. Eight of those 15 achieved seizure-freedom within one year, two achieved seizure-freedom after two years, and three developed intractable epilepsy. Overall, intractable epilepsy developed in 5 percent of the 56 children who were taken off anti-seizure medication following seizure-freedom, the study found.

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