Epilepsy treatment can involve a complex mix of treatments usually coordinated by a multi-disciplinary team of physicians and nurses including neurologists and neurosurgeons. The two general types of treatment are medical, including medications, and surgical. Most patients who present with a form of epilepsy are first treated with medication. Only those patients who fail medical treatment or with some specific causes of epilepsy will then be referred for surgical treatment.
Medical Epilepsy Treatment
The mainstay of medical treatment for epilepsy includes epilepsy medications
. Most patients with a new diagnosis of seizures and epilepsy will be started on one or more drugs for epilepsy. These medications are generally taken every day to prevent seizures. There are a number of different types of anti-seizure medications which act by various mechanisms, generally inhibiting the spread of action potentials (electrical signals in the brain) or other aspects of the activation of nerve cells in the brain. These medications, prescribed by a physician, are capable of reducing the frequency or completely eliminating the occurrence of seizures in the majority of these patients. While some patients may not respond to the first drug tried, after some experimentation, or combining more than one anti-epileptic drug, many patients will have good seizure control on medications.
In addition to medication, some patients with epilepsy will be referred for physical therapy, psychosocial counseling or treatment, behavioral treatments or other support as needed.
Surgical Epilepsy Treatment
In patients in whom medical treatment fails to adequately control their seizures, epilepsy surgery
is sometimes recommended and offered as an alternative treatment. This is usually only considered once the patient has gone through an adequate trial of various anti-seizure medications. Additionally, some forms of epilepsy which are clearly associated with a specific lesion in the brain, such as epilepsy caused by a brain tumor
or arteriovenous malformation
, are generally treated surgically by removing the offending lesion in the brain.
There are many surgical procedures used for various forms of epilepsy. Some are aimed at localizing the origin of the seizures (such as the implantation of electrodes) while others are aimed at removing the diseased brain which is the source of the seizures (such as temporal lobectomy in the case of temporal lobe epilepsy). In more rare cases, various procedures (such as vagal nerve stimulator implantation or corpus callosotomy) are used to attempt to reduce the frequency or severity of seizures.
The specific treatment of each patient with epilepsy is different and therefore cannot be generalized. Each patient should consult their own treating physicians to find out what the most appropriate treatment options are in their unique case.
Return to the Epilepsy page
from the Epilepsy Treatment page.
Return to the Nervous System Diseases home page.
This site is not intended to offer medical advice. Every patient is different, and only your personal physician can help to counsel you about what is best for your situation. What we offer is general reference information about various disorders and treatments for your education.