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It is quite common for children who have had a brain injury to have a seizure (fit or convulsion) soon after their injury. Sometimes medication (anticonvulsant) is needed to help prevent further seizures. During a seizure, the most important thing to remember is
to keep your child's airways open.
Seizures occur when the normal electrical signals within the brain misfire. They usually affect a child's awareness of their surroundings or their actions for a short period of time. The electrical signals usually return to normal within a few seconds or a few minutes and the seizure will then stop.
Seizures usually occur without warning and without the child being aware of what is happening. Medications are often prescribed to help prevent further seizures. This medication is often given directly into the veins (intravenous or IV) to allow it to act quickly. After the child
becomes more aware and is swallowing safely they can take tablets or syrup. If seizures continue to occur, anticonvulsant drugs will need to be given for a longer period of time.
There are several different types of seizures. Generalised seizures happen when the whole brain is misfiring, and partial seizures when one part of the brain is affected. Some of the most common types of seizures are:
It is important to carefully observe the child's behaviour at the time of the suspected seizure. The observations should include:
Some specific tests will help determine the cause of the seizures. The number and types of tests used to diagnose epilepsy are different for each patient. An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that measures electrical activity in the brain and is frequently used to help diagnose
epilepsy. Some other common tests include CAT and MRI scans. It may be necessary for some children to be sedated so that these scans can be done accurately.
Once it is decided that a child requires treatment for their seizures, medication is prescribed. The type of drug will depend on the type of seizures (generalised or partial). If possible, a single drug such as carbamazepine, valproate, gabapentin, phenytoin, topiramate or lamotrigine is given. Most children will respond well to medication. Anticonvulsant medications are usually
very effective. Sometimes they may have side effects such as drowsiness and weight gain. Some children will also need to be checked with follow up blood tests.
Surgery for epilepsy in children is considered only in those who are not helped by medication and whose seizures severely affect their quality of life and development. Surgery is done only in carefully selected patients, usually those with a known focus (part of the brain) that is responsible for causing the
Some ways you may help your child more fully understand their condition are to:
After the seizure, your child may fall into a deep sleep. This is normal so do not try to wake them. Do not attempt to give any food or drink until they are awake and alert.
Following a seizure, particularly if it is a first or unexplained seizure, call your doctor or emergency medical service for instructions. Your child will usually need to be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible.
It is important that your child
avoids activities such as swimming, climbing trees and driving following a seizure, until they are reviewed by a doctor.
If breathing is troubled or the
seizure lasts longer than a few minutes you should call 000 for an
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Paediatric Rehabilitation Service based on information from the Brain Injury Service at Westmead Children’s Hospital. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed September 2020.
Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit
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