Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology
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ARTICLE
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 12-17

Approaches to refractory epilepsy


Department of Neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA

Correspondence Address:
Jerome Engel
Department of Neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, 710 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, California - 90095-1769
USA
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Source of Support: Original research reported by the author was supported in part by Grants NS-02808, NS-15654, NS-33310, and NS-80181, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0972-2327.128644

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Epilepsy is one of the most common serious neurological conditions, and 30 to 40% of people with epilepsy have seizures that are not controlled by medication. Patients are considered to have refractory epilepsy if disabling seizures continue despite appropriate trials of two antiseizure drugs, either alone or in combination. At this point, patients should be referred to multidisciplinary epilepsy centers that perform specialized diagnostic testing to first determine whether they are, in fact, pharmacoresistant, and then, if so, offer alternative treatments. Apparent pharmacoresistance can result from a variety of situations, including noncompliance, seizures that are not epileptic, misdiagnosis of the seizure type or epilepsy syndrome, inappropriate use of medication, and lifestyle issues. For patients who are pharmacoresistant, surgical treatment offers the best opportunity for complete freedom from seizures. Surgically remediable epilepsy syndromes have been identified, but patients with more complicated epilepsy can also benefit from surgical treatment and require more specialized evaluation, including intracranial EEG monitoring. For patients who are not surgical candidates, or who are unwilling to consider surgery, a variety of other alternative treatments can be considered, including peripheral or central neurostimulation, ketogenic diet, and complementary and alternative approaches. When such alternative treatments are not appropriate or effective, quality of life can still be greatly improved by the psychological and social support services offered by multidisciplinary epilepsy centers. A major obstacle remains the fact that only a small proportion of patients with refractory epilepsy are referred for expert evaluation and treatment.


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