It's what happens when too many brain cells start firing all at the same time. Nearly ten percent of Americans have a seizure at some point in their lives. But for kids finding relief can be a special challenge.
Now doctors have a way of making the seizures go away. 25 electrodes, seven days in the hospital, and hopefully an answer to one important question, why?
Since she was three, 9-year-old Abby has been having seizures. "I fall backwards," describes Abby about what happens when she has seizures.
A special unit at Phoenix Children's Hospital attracts young seizure patients from around the US. Each patient is monitored 24-hours a day on simultaneous video and EEG helping doctors visualize what they see happening to what's going on in the brain.
"And we can very quickly, in a cost effective fashion supplement what's known about them, and get them to an aggressive treatment protocol,” says Epileptologist & Division Chief at Phoenix Children's Hospital Jeffrey Buchhalter, MD, PhD. “He's very conscious. Now he's having the seizure, he stops moving, he looks down."
On five-year-old Kade Ashton's first day in this unit a year and a half ago, he had more than one hundred seizures. A week of constant monitoring helped doctors find the best treatment.
"They tried different combinations of medications, when one didn't work they'd increase the dose of one or try another, they just took a different approach," says Kade’s Mom Brooke Ashton.
Now that Kade is on two different epilepsy medications, his mom sees plenty of smiles.
"You know, he's a normal little boy, it's wonderful," Brooke says.
The Pediatric Monitoring Seizure Unit at Phoenix Children's Hospital is one of only a few of its kind in the country. The Pediatric Monitoring Seizure Unit is helping patients who have lived with seizures but haven't had success with treatment.
SEEING SEIZURES - INSIDE KIDS' BRAINS REPORT #1893
BACKGROUND: A seizure is a sudden burst of electricity in your brain, very much like a tiny bolt of lightning. This electricity is a signal that causes your body to feel different, or makes your body do things that you can't control. Sometimes the electrical signal only reaches part of your brain. Then a part of your body, like an arm or a leg, may move on its own. If the signal goes all through your brain, you may shake all over or may fall asleep for a short time. The whole seizure is usually very short-only a few seconds or perhaps a minute or so. (SOURCE: Epilepsy.com)
TYPES OF SEIZURES: The main types of seizures according to International Classifications are Partial Seizures and Generalized seizures.
Generalized seizures include the convulsive, tonic-clonic, or Grand mal, type of seizures which people are most familiar, in which a child falls down and has jerking movements. Other types of generalized seizures include atonic seizures, which cause 'drop attacks', and absence seizures (petit mal). Absence seizures cause a brief loss of awareness and are one of the causes of staring spells. These staring spells are usually brief, lasting only about 10-15 seconds, with a return to normal awareness after the seizure and they may occur several times a day. Absence seizures can be brought on by hyperventilation and they have a characteristic EEG, with a 3-per-second spike and wave pattern.
Partial seizures, which have a focal or local onset (starting in the right leg, for example, in contrast to a generalized seizure, which begins in all parts of the body at the same time). Partial seizures may be simple, in which there is no loss of consciousness, including seizures in which a child jerks one arm or deviates his eye to one side. (SOURCE: Keepkidshealthy.com)
STOPPING SEIZURE IN ITS TRACKS! The Pediatric Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (PEMU) at Phoenix Children's Hospital is a specialized unit for children with all types of events believed to be seizures. Each patient's room is outfitted with video equipment to capture seizure activity while the child's brainwaves are recorded. The feedback received during an actual seizure leads to a more accurate diagnoses. If the brainwaves are normal during an event, seizures can usually be ruled out. Surprisingly, this applies to about one-third of all patients admitted. If the child experienced an epileptic seizure, observing the patient on video and correlating it with their EEG activity will lead to an accurate diagnosis and treatment. In each patient's room, you'll find physicians prescribing the latest therapies and nurses who are specifically trained for this complex type of care. (SOURCE: Phoenix Children's Hospital)
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Allison Otu /Media Relations
Phoenix Children's Hospital