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Seizures or Epilepsy? The Pediatric Neurologists at Arkansas Children's Are Ready to Help

After a long night in the emergency room at a local adult hospital, 18-month-old Nyla lay asleep on her mother’s shoulder. She had her first seizure only hours before. The physicians were unsure what was causing the seizures and why she was in so much pain.

Early the next morning, the doctors called the pediatric experts at Arkansas Children’s. The Angel One Transport team flew Nyla and her mother Tammy to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. Nyla’s seizures continued every few hours for up to 1 minute at a time. She was diagnosed with epilepsy, a condition with recurrent, unprovoked seizures over time. Her neurology team prescribed medication to control her seizures.

Thanks to the expert neurology team at Arkansas Children’s, Nyla has not experienced a seizure since February 2016. Every six months, she visits the ACH Neurology Clinic for a check-up. She’s now in preschool and is a thriving little girl.

“Despite the fear of the unknown, being at ACH that first time was really comforting. They were trying everything they could to find out what was going on,” explains Tammy.  “We’re so grateful to have Arkansas Children’s in this state.”

The Only Level 4 Epilepsy Program in the State

Arkansas Children’s Comprehensive Pediatric Epilepsy Program is the only program in the state with a National Association of Epilepsy Centers (NAEC) Level 4 accreditation, providing the most advanced care for children with epilepsy. Our board-certified doctors are trained to evaluate, diagnose and create an individualized plan for your child. The goal is to control seizures and promote the child’s growth and well-being with a life that isn’t dictated by epilepsy.

The Pediatric Epilepsy Program offers a variety of services tailored to each patient, including state-of-the-art diagnostics to determine where the seizures are coming from, as well as medical management and specific diet therapies. Our team also participates in clinical trials to help develop new medications, helping to ensure our patients receive access to the latest therapies. Seizures cannot be controlled with medical management in about 20% of patients. Our team can provide comprehensive evaluation, and surgical treatment can be offered to about one half of these patients with uncontrolled seizures.

Seizures and Epilepsy: What’s the Difference?

According to Dr. Gregory Sharp, chief of neurology at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, 10% of the population will have a single seizure during their lives. The most common cause of seizures in kids is a febrile seizure, the result of a high fever or a rapid rise in fever during illness in children less than 6 years of age. Between 2-3% of children have febrile seizures during childhood when they have a high fever.

Just because your child has a seizure does not mean he has epilepsy. Epilepsy is present when a patient has unprovoked seizures, meaning there is no acute underlying illness, fever, toxicity or other problem that has caused the seizure. The most common age at onset of epilepsy is in young children and elderly adults.

What to Do If Your Child Has a Seizure

If your child has a seizure, there are easy steps you can take to keep her safe and prevent injury. The neurology team at Arkansas Children’s advises:

  • Place child on a soft surface, such as a bed or on the floor.

  • Prevent choking by laying the child on his or her side.

  • Ensure child is breathing adequately.

  • Check the time the seizure starts and monitor how long it lasts.

  • Administer any treatment your doctor has prescribed to stop the seizure if this is a recurrence. Call 911 if the seizure does not stop within three to five minutes or if the child does not regain consciousness.

  • When fully awake, give your child medicine to reduce fever (if present).

  • Contact your child’s physician to report the seizure, seek advice, and determine when your child needs to be seen for an evaluation.

If a seizure lasts five minutes or longer, take your child to the nearest medical facility immediately. Other causes for concern:

  • A fever of 104 degrees or higher

  • More than one seizure in one day

  • A seizure with no associated fever or illness

  • A seizure occurring on only one side of the body

  • The child does not wake up or return to normal within a reasonable timeframe following the seizure

The emergency rooms at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock and Arkansas Children’s Northwest in Springdale are staffed by pediatric experts 24/7, with pediatric neurologists on-call at all hours to diagnose and treat seizures.

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