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National Epilepsy Awareness Month | Overview

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month – a time to educate about epilepsy and seizures.

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, 1 in 10 people will experience a seizure throughout their life, and 1 in 26 will develop epilepsy. Approximately 500,000 children in the United States have epilepsy.

Simply put, a seizure occurs when there is too much electricity in the brain, and the neurons (nerve cells) fire all at once. In general, epilepsy is diagnosed when a person has two or more unprovoked seizures – in other words, seizures that are not caused by fevers, injuries, sleep deprivation, illness, or drug or alcohol use. However, epilepsy may be diagnosed after one seizure when there is an abnormal EEG.

While the cause of most cases of childhood seizures is unknown, some possibilities include trauma, brain defects present at birth, tumors, metabolic disorders, or infection. While this may sound scary, fortunately, the chance of brain damage or death from childhood seizures is very small.

Helping you and your child navigate an epilepsy diagnosis begins with the right care team.

Epilepsy patients have faced unique challenges throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a heightened need for rescue medications to avoid emergency room visits. We have also seen patients who present with new-onset seizures and also test positive for COVID-19.

Throughout the pandemic, our neurology division has remained available to these vulnerable patients, whether it be in-person appointments or telemedicine visits. Boston Children’s Health Physicians was fortunate to welcome Dr. Steven Wolf and Nurse Practitioner Patricia McGoldrick to our network of care in January 2020. Dr. Wolf and Ms. McGoldrick are renowned for their participation in pharmaceutical trials and participation in the Pediatric Epilepsy Research Consortium and the Pediatric Epilepsy Learning Healthcare System.

The Boston Children’s Health Physicians/Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital Epilepsy Program is being established to serve patients in the Hudson Valley area, who have limited access to Comprehensive Epilepsy Centers. The epilepsy team consists of Dr. Steven Wolf, Dr. Philip Overby, Dr. Shahid Parvez, Dr. Carrie Muh, Dr. Mike Tobias, Dr. Avi Mohan, nurse practitioners Patricia McGoldrick and Cari Martone, and Dr. Suzanne Braniecki, a neuropsychologist.

Together, the team provides epilepsy monitoring unit admissions, epilepsy surgeries ranging from placement of vagal nerve stimulators to stereo EEG recordings, laser ablation, placement of responsive neurostimulators, and resective surgeries. We also have robot-assisted guidance systems and are developing a ketogenic diet program. We are equipped with board-certified EEG technicians and laboratories.

Helping children and adolescents with epilepsy

One of the best things you can do for a child with epilepsy is to take control and get organized. Be your child’s advocate. Parents learn the ins and outs of epilepsy during their child’s care but it’s important to keep doctors’ names and numbers and emergency information in several different places. Let family members and babysitters know where they are posted. Talk with their school and friends’ parents ahead of playdates. Have a seizure action plan.

If you have concerns about your child’s health or development or wish to learn more about epilepsy medications, diets, and epilepsy surgery, contact the BCHP Pediatric Neurology division.

The Pediatric Neurology Division of Boston Children’s Health Physicians (BCHP) is one of the most experienced teams in the New York Metropolitan area. We manage and diagnose a broad array of childhood neurological conditions. Our mission is to provide the best and most personalized neurological care for infants, children, adolescents, and young adults both with and without developmental delays.