Seizures in Children

What are seizures?

Seizures happen when brain cells fire or “talk” too much, temporarily disrupting the brain’s normal electrical signals. They’re quite common, especially in infants and young children, and they have a wide range of causes. Sometimes, seizures are triggered by a disease or injury, but for most children, there is no detectable cause. Sometimes other conditions, such as fainting or stroke, can look like seizures.

Meet Kristen.

When medication failed to treat her seizures, Kristen decided to undergo surgery for epilepsy.

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Many people think of seizures as involving convulsions in a child’s whole body or a temporary loss of consciousness, but with some types of seizures, people may not notice anything out of the ordinary. Certain seizures are easy to recognize (jerking, twitching, stiffness), while others don’t have any outward signs. Researchers believe that about 5 percent of people in the United States experience at least one seizure in their lives.

Since children’s brains are growing and developing, seizure activity changes as they grow up. A child may be diagnosed with epilepsy if they have had two or more unprovoked seizures, or after a single seizure if the child shows evidence of high susceptibility to further seizures.

How we care for seizures

Treatments for seizures have expanded greatly in recent years and include a variety of medications, specialized diets or, in serious cases, a variety of brain surgeries. At Boston Children's Hospital, we care for children who have epilepsy or who have experienced seizures through the Epilepsy Center, Fetal-Neonatal Neurology Program and many other programs that are dedicated to caring for children with disorders that may cause seizures.

Our areas of innovation for seizures

Physicians and researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital are constantly looking for safer, more effective treatments to help children live seizure-free. We typically have several clinical trials going on at any time. Our doctors are:

  • searching for and testing new anti-seizure drugs
  • developing better methods for diagnosing and treating seizures
  • looking for ways to prevent other conditions from triggering seizures
  • evaluating new imaging techniques that help surgeons avoid damaging functional brain tissue