Helping kids with Atonic Seizures

Falling to the ground at any given moment without having control over their bodies. It's what children with Atonic Seizures live with everyday.

For some, removing part of a major organ, seems to be the key to ending the dangerous cycle.

Eight year old Aliyah Walker had the seizures. She would have as many as six frightening episodes a day.

Latasha McKeiver, Aliyah's Mom, describes how quickly they would come on, "Where she would just walk normally, and then she would fall."

They were caused by an inflammatory disease, deteriorating the left side of her brain and its function.

Philipp R. Aldana, MD, FAAP, Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics, Chief, Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery, University of Florida-HSC Jacksonville, explains what happens in most patients, "Over time, some of the function of the brain moved elsewhere, probably to the right side of the brain."

When no medicine helped Aliyah, there was only one option.

McKeiver describes her reaction to what the doctors told her they would have to do, "I was like no. They told me they were going to have to disconnect the left side of her brain, remove it."

During her hemispherotomy, doctors removed the part of the brain triggering the seizures, and cut off the entire left brain.

Philipp R. Aldana, MD, FAAP, explains the procedure, "We disconnected the fibers that go down to the spinal cord, and disconnected the fibers that go to the other side of the brain."

After surgery, there was not a single complication.

While she has months of therapy ahead to strengthen and improve coordination on her right side, she's seizure-free.

Without the procedure, doctors say Aliyah's severe seizures, weakness and even paralysis would have likely gotten worse. They now believe her seizures are gone for good.

In time, her right brain will take over more of her left brain function, and doctors believe, she'll go on to have a normal, healthy life.


REPORT: MB #3423

BACKGROUND: Epilepsy affects more than 300,000 children under the age of 15 as well as 3 million Americans and 50 million people worldwide. Atonic seizures also known as drop attacks, astatic, or akinetic seizures produce an abrupt loss of muscle tone, head drops, loss of posture, or sudden collapse. In some children, only their head suddenly drops. After a few seconds the child recovers, and regains consciousness. Because atonic seizures occur without warning, seizures can result in injuries to the head and face. (Source:

LIVING WITH IT: During an atomic seizure a standing or walking child may suddenly pitch forward without demonstrating any protective reflexes. It usually lasts for about 15 seconds. Children who are sitting or lying down may experience head bobbing or rolling. (Source:

CAUSES: Epilepsy has no identifiable cause in 50% of patients with the condition. In the other half of patients, the condition may be traced to various factors including; genetic influence, head trauma, medical disorders, dementia, diseases, prenatal injury, and developmental disorders.

CHANGING THE ODDS: Protective headgear, medications, and surgery are common treatments for epilepsy. Most experts recommend that a patient who continues to have seizures after two or more different medication trials should have an evaluation at an epilepsy treatment program. When tests consistently point to a specific area of the brain where the seizures begin, curative surgery is performed. With surgery the doctors will disconnect part of the brain depending on what area the seizures are being caused from. There are five main steps to a temporal lobectomy, and the surgery generally takes approximately 4 hours. Patients typically can resume their normal activities after a month. (Source:

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