Frontal lobe epilepsy in childhood

Author(s): Sinclair DB, Wheatley M, Snyder T


Frontal lobe epilepsy is poorly understood and often unrecognized by health care workers caring for children. We sought to better characterize frontal lobe epilepsy in childhood and help delineate this condition from other nonepileptic events. We reviewed pediatric patients admitted to the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at the University of Alberta Hospitals with a proven diagnosis of frontal lobe epilepsy. Twenty-two patients, 13 males and 9 females, were studied. Age of onset was variable from 10 months to 16 years (mean 7.5 years). Seizures were brief (30 seconds to 2 minutes), stereotypic, nocturnal (17/21), and frequent (3-22/night). Clinical features included explosive onset, screaming, agitation, stiffening, kicking or bicycling of the legs, and incontinence. The diagnosis of frontal lobe epilepsy was not made in any child before referral. The referring diagnosis was sleep disturbance (10), psychiatric problems (6), or other seizure types (6). Interictal electroencephalogram was usually normal (18/21). Long-term video electroencephalographic monitoring demonstrated frontal (9) or bifrontal (13) epileptic discharges. Magnetic resonance imaging was normal in most patients (18/21). Seizure control was difficult, with only half (11/21) the patients being controlled on medication. Three intractable patients went on to epilepsy surgery and became seizure-free. Frontal lobe epilepsy in childhood is a distinct epilepsy syndrome with characteristic features. The seizures are brief, stereotypic, nocturnal, and frequent. Electroencephalogram and magnetic resonance imaging are usually normal. The condition is often misdiagnosed as a sleep disorder or psychiatric problem. Seizures are difficult to control but may respond to carbamazepine, valproic acid, or epilepsy surgery.

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