EMU’s Critical Role in Treating Pediatric Epilepsy

EMU’s Critical Role in Treating Pediatric Epilepsy

Treating epilepsy in children is time sensitive. Here’s how an epilepsy monitoring unit can help expedite needed care.

Getting the necessary care in a timely manner is critical when your child is diagnosed with epilepsy.

Unfortunately, far too many patients remain under the care of the pediatric physician or pediatric neurologist when they should be admitted to an Epilepsy Center of Excellence and seen by epileptologist at the point of diagnosis.

According to an Institute of Medicine study, only 22 percent of Americans with refractory epilepsy, are seen annually at these centers. This means that nearly 1.2 million people are not receiving the level of epilepsy care they need for uncontrollable seizures. Additionally, approximately 99.1 percent of epilepsy patients suitable for surgery go untreated due to the current system of fragmented care.

Any delay is a lost opportunity to deliver needed care. During the first decade of their lives, children are at the highest risk for seizures when their brains are still developing. Delaying specialized care may result in developmental challenges and difficulties acquiring new skills later in life.

See: How Child Brain Development Impacts Epilepsy Treatment

The Importance of an Epilepsy Monitoring Unit

An Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU) may be the best course of action to address your child’s condition. An EMU is a special environment designed to evaluate and treat people who have or may have epilepsy.

As part of the EMU in-depth treatment process, patients work with a multi-disciplinary team that can include neurologists, nurses, a psychiatrist, a neurosurgeon, a neuroradiologist, a neuropsychologist, a social worker, and video-electroencephalographic (EEG) technologists.

The core function of an EMU is to provide continuous video EEG monitoring that assists in the evaluation of seizures that are difficult to diagnose or control. Using this process, a care team can better identify the type and origin of a child’s seizures. This safe and painless process uses small, metal disc electrodes attached to the scalp to record the brain’s electrical activity.

A continuous EEG with video and audio recording enables review of the events from beginning to end both clinically and electrographically. This monitoring can be helpful for parents and patients who are unaware of what symptoms or signs to look for.

EMUs have been shown to be highly effective. In one study, researchers concluded that “Continuous video-EEG monitoring is an efficient and valuable procedure in the diagnosis and management of epilepsy and paroxysmal disorders in children.”

When Epilepsy Monitoring Should Be Pursued

Not all children need epilepsy monitoring – especially patients responding well to medication. According to the American Epilepsy Society, these are some of the factors to consider when determining if an EMU is an appropriate treatment option:

  • Seizures that are difficult to diagnose, and there is a need to confirm if a person has epilepsy or non-epileptic events (physiologic or psychogenic)
  • Uncertain seizure types and/or seizures are not responding to treatment
  • When surgery, stimulation devices (i.e., vagus nerve stimulation), or dietary therapy is being considered

Based upon results, the EMU team will make recommendations on next steps in a treatment plan.

To understand your treatment options and determine if your child is a good candidate for an EMU referral, we encourage you to confer with your child’s physician or epileptologist.

If you have further questions, please reach out to the American Epilepsy Institute. If you would like to help us improve pediatric epilepsy care by sharing your experience, please click here to take our survey.

Note: The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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