Epilepsy is a neurological condition characterized by seizures. One of the most common disorders of the brain, it affects about 2.9 million people in the United States.
Penn State Epilepsy Center offers children with epilepsy the latest techniques for diagnosis and treatment at our Level 4 Epilepsy Center - the highest level possible.
Care at Children's
The Penn State Epilepsy Center provides innovative, compassionate care for children with epilepsy. Our multidisciplinary team consists of neurosurgeons, neurologists, neuroradiologists, neuropsychologists, neurophysiology technologists, and neuroscience nurses.
We’re a designated Level 4 Epilepsy Center - the highest level - by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers. This means we provide:
- Complex neurodiagnostics monitoring
- Extensive medical, psychosocial, and neuropsychological treatment
- Comprehensive evaluation
- A range of surgical options
Because seizures can happen for reasons other than epilepsy, we take care in evaluating each patient thoroughly. During a patient’s first visit, we’ll gather information about the seizures, including frequency, intensity, and potential triggers.
There are many different types of epilepsy. Treatment of the child with epilepsy may be very different depending upon the type. To help us accurately diagnose your child, we’ll perform a physical exam, paying particular attention to the patient’s nervous system. We’ll get a complete medical history and ask about current medications.
The doctor may recommend additional tests, such as:
- Electroencephalogram (EEG): The most common diagnostic test for epilepsy, an EEG uses electrodes placed on the scalp to record brain waves, detecting any abnormalities in electrical activity
- Wada test (intracarotid sodium amobarbital): A doctor injects an anesthetic medication into the patient’s carotid artery to sedate one side of his or her brain. This helps doctors see which side of the brain is dominant
- Positron emission tomography (PET): Imaging test that provides detailed information about the brain’s metabolic activity and allows doctors to determine if the brain is functioning normally
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Imaging test that creates a scan of the brain, allowing doctors to see if there is a structural cause for the patient’s seizures
- Surgical placement of temporary electrodes: Electrodes are placed on the surface of the patient’s brain or inside the brain tissue to help locate the exact place where seizures begin
If epilepsy is confirmed, we will discuss treatment options with you and your child.
We work with obstetricians and maternal-fetal medicine specialists in the community to diagnose congenital heart defects as early as possible.
Our specialists can travel to these doctors’ offices or you may visit the Children’s Hospital. If we suspect an abnormality in utero, we will perform an evaluation - most often using a fetal echocardiogram or the portable transthoracic echocardiogram. We can then determine together the best next steps for caring for your child.
Out of the 1 percent of children who are born with a congenital heart defect, about 15 percent will require surgery in their first year of life. Our cardiac surgeons are experienced with all types of congenital heart defects, including the various complex forms of single ventricle heart disease. We have outstanding clinical outcomes that exceed the national average, despite the fact that we manage more complex cases than most pediatric heart surgery programs.
We use intraoperative transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) and neuromonitoring for all cases. TEE procedures assist the surgeon in monitoring the function of the heart during an operation, and help us evaluate the heart before and after surgery. Neuromonitoring assesses blood flow to the brain during open heart surgery to prevent brain injury during the procedure.
Medication is usually the initial treatment choice for almost all patients with multiple seizures. Choice of medication depends on a variety of factors, including:
- Type of seizure and epilepsy
- Likely side effects of the medication
- Other medical conditions that may be affected by the medication
- Potential for interaction with the patient’s other medications
- Patient’s age or gender
- Cost of the medication
With numerous antiepileptic drugs available, choosing the right one can be complicated. Our pediatric epileptologists have extensive experience in treating epilepsy and choosing the appropriate medication.
Twenty to 30 percent of patients do not respond to medications. In these cases, we may recommend other treatment options, such as diet therapy. We offer both the ketogenic diet and modified Atkins diet, both of which focus on increasing fats and decreasing carbohydrates. Both diets should be started only under the direction of a medical team. Read more about diets to treat epilepsy (PDF).
- Other treatments for epilepsy include:
- Gamma-knife radiosurgery: A highly precise tool that targets an area in the brain and destroys it with radiation
- Vagal nerve stimulation : A pacemaker-like device that produces pulses of electricity to stimulate the vagus nerve
- Surgical resection: Removal of abnormal brain tissue
- Surgical disconnection: Involves cutting and dividing fiber bundles that connect portions of the brain
Epilepsy care involves multidisciplinary care from many departments, including:
- Neuropsychological Testing
- Neurophysiology Clinic
Our pediatric clinic is located at:
30 Hope Drive, Entrance B, Suite 2200
Hershey, PA 17033
Groups, Classes & Support
Epilepsy for family and friends
Sponsored by Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and the Epilepsy Foundation of Western/Central Pennsylvania.
Our support group is held the first Tuesday of every month from 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. at 30 Hope Drive, Building B, 2nd floor, conference room 2005, Hershey, PA 17033
Research & Clinical Trials
Our clinical trials office guides participants through the process, from initiation through completion of the study.