Seizure-free for Youth Epilepsy

Elimination of seizures for most with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy

(RxWiki News) Childhood and adolescence is a confusing time without experiencing seizures! For youth living with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME), understanding what to expect from the syndrome would relieve much anxiety and allow for much easier planning for future careers and lives.

A recent small follow-up study investigated the long-term outcomes and seizure triggers in patients with JME.

The study found that most JME patients can control their seizures with medication and almost 30 percent of them eventually eliminate the need for medication altogether.

Felix Schneider, MD, from the University of Greifswald in Germany, and colleagues examined follow up data from 31 patients with JME. All participants had a period of at least 25 years between their first examination and the follow-up, which reviewed their medical records and involved in person or telephone interviews.

"Speak to your doctor if you are experiencing epilepsy symptoms"

A questionnaire was given to all patients to record data about seizure types, age of onset of each seizure type, initial and current seizure frequency, detailed medical history, provoking factors, duration of epilepsy, family history, electroencephalography (EEG) results and social aspects during the follow up.

An EEG is a test that measures and records electrical activity of the brain through sensors attached to the head and connected to a computer. Patients were not given EEG tests at the time of the follow up study but all patients were in regular medical attendance and 74.2 percent had current EEG records.

The researchers defined seizure-free as not experiencing a seizure in the past five years and found that 68 percent of patients in the study qualified for the classification.

They also found that those who experienced generalized tonic-clonic seizures (GTCS) preceded by bilateral myoclonic seizure (BMS), a long period of unsuccessful treatment, or multiple drug treatments for epilepsy at once were less likely to control their seizures.

GTCS, formerly known as grand mal seizures, are seizures that affect the entire brain. BMS are brief, shock-like jerks of muscles that occur on both sides of the body.

JME cases make up 11 percent of all epilepsy cases, occur more frequently in women than men and begin around puberty or early adulthood. JME patients typically experience jerking of the neck, shoulders, and upper arms, often shortly after waking up.

The authors believe that life-long medication is not necessarily required to eliminate seizures in patients with JME but the decision to discontinue medication should be weighed carefully. Patients exhibiting the factors that predict poor long-term outcomes are not likely to benefit from giving up their medication.

These finding may allow doctors to treat JME patients with more confidence. In addition, knowing that there is a strong likelihood of becoming seizure free allows the JME patient to make social and career related decision with less anxiety and more certainty.

It is important to note that the study is a small sample group and could possibly contain statistical errors. In addition, the study originally included 71 patients but 38 of the patients could not be reached and two had passed away before the follow up could be completed.

The study was published in the June issue of Epilepsia, a journal of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) ILAE.

Although most authors were from the University of Greifswald in Germany, one author was from the Cleveland Clinic Epilepsy Center, Neurological Institute, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A. All authors reported no conflict of interest.

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Review Date: 
July 6, 2012