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ABSTRACT: Uncomplicated seizures and epilepsy are common in infants and children. Family physicians should be aware of certain epilepsy syndromes that occur in children, such as febrile seizures, benign focal epilepsy of childhood, complex partial epilepsy, juvenile myoclonic epilepsy and video game-related epilepsy. Not all uncomplicated childhood seizures require neuroimaging or treatment. Febrile seizures, rolandic seizures and video game-related seizures are childhood epileptic syndromes that are typically not associated with brain structural lesions on computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging, and are often not treated with anticonvulsant drugs. Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy does not require neuroimaging but does require treatment because of a high rate of recurrent seizures. Complex partial epilepsy often requires both neuroimaging and treatment. Although seizures are diagnosed primarily on clinical grounds, all children with a possible seizure (except febrile seizures) should have an electroencephalogram. Interictal EEGs may be normal. Computed tomography has demonstrated abnormalities in 7 to 19 percent of children with new-onset seizures. The yield of magnetic resonance imaging for specific childhood seizure types is not known, but it is the preferred modality of neuroimaging for many clinical presentations. Most children's seizures treated with anticonvulsants are controlled by the first drug selected. The value of "therapeutic' serum drug levels is questionable in the management of uncomplicated childhood seizures.
Advances in the Treatment of Epilepsy - Article
ABSTRACT: Significant advances have been made in the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy over the past decade. With the advent of electroencephalographic video monitoring, physicians are now able to reliably differentiate epilepsy from other conditions that can mimic it, such as pseudoseizures. In addition, neuroimaging has changed the way treatment for difficult epilepsy is approached. As a result, the classification systems that have been in use since the early 1980s are currently being revised. A broader range of treatment options for epilepsy is now available. Many new antiepileptic drugs have become available in recent years, including felbamate, gabapentin, lamotrigine, topiramate, tiagabine, levetiracetam, oxcarbazepine and zonisamide. These medications offer options for patients with epilepsy whose seizures cannot be controlled using the classic agents. Several classic antiepileptic drugs have been modified and reformulated. The ketogenic diet has resurfaced as a treatment option in certain types of epilepsy. The vagus nerve stimulator, approved in 1997, represents a completely new treatment modality for patients with seizures not controlled by medications. Epilepsy surgery is now a well-documented and effective treatment for some patients with intractable epilepsy.
Seizure Disorders in the Elderly - Article
ABSTRACT: Seizure disorders become increasingly common after the age of 60 years and can have a significant impact on functional status. The goal of antiepileptic drug therapy is to control seizures but preserve quality of life. If possible, seizure control should be achieved with one agent given in the lowest effective dosage. Clinical response, rather than drug levels, should guide dosage changes. All antiepileptic drugs can cause dose-dependent sedation and cognitive impairment. Although the newer agents may have theoretical advantages over standard antiepileptic agents, higher cost may limit their use. Drugs for first-line monotherapy of seizures in elderly patients include carbamazepine, valproic acid, oxcarbazepine, gabapentin, and lamotrigine.
Epilepsy in Women - Article
ABSTRACT: Epilepsy in women raises special reproductive and general health concerns. Seizure frequency and severity may change at puberty, over the menstrual cycle, with pregnancy, and at menopause. Estrogen is known to increase the risk of seizures, while progesterone has an inhibitory effect. Many antiepileptic drugs induce liver enzymes and decrease oral contraceptive efficacy. Women with epilepsy also have lower fertility rates and are more likely to have anovulatory menstrual cycles, polycystic ovaries, and sexual dysfunction. Irregular menstrual cycles, hirsutism, acne, and obesity should prompt an evaluation for reproductive dysfunction. Children who are born to women with epilepsy are at greater risk of birth defects, in part related to maternal use of antiepileptic drugs. This risk is reduced by using a single antiepileptic drug at the lowest effective dose and by providing preconceptional folic acid supplementation. Breastfeeding is generally thought to be safe for women using antiepileptic medications.
Management of Status Epilepticus - Article
ABSTRACT: Status epilepticus is an increasingly recognized public health problem in the United States. Status epilepticus is associated with a high mortality rate that is largely contingent on the duration of the condition before initial treatment, the etiology of the condition, and the age of the patient. Treatment is evolving as new medications become available. Three new preparations--fosphenytoin, rectal diazepam, and parenteral valproate--have implications for the management of status epilepticus. However, randomized controlled trials show that benzodiazepines (in particular, diazepam and lorazepam) should be the initial drug therapy in patients with status epilepticus. Despite the paucity of clinical trials comparing medication regimens for acute seizures, there is broad consensus that immediate diagnosis and treatment are necessary to reduce the morbidity and mortality of this condition. Moreover, investigators have reported that status epilepticus often is not considered in patients with altered consciousness in the intensive care setting. In patients with persistent alteration of consciousness for which there is no clear etiology, physicians should be more quickly prepared to obtain electroencephalography to identify status epilepticus. Physicians should rely on a standardized protocol for management of status epilepticus to improve care for this neurologic emergency.
ABSTRACT: Psychosis may pose a greater challenge than cognitive decline for patients with dementia and their caregivers. The nature and frequency of psychotic symptoms varies over the course of illness, but in most patients, these symptoms occur more often in the later stages of disease. Management of psychosis requires a comprehensive nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic approach, including an accurate assessment of symptoms, awareness of the environment in which they occur, and identification of precipitants and how they affect patients and their caregivers. Nonpharmacologic interventions include counseling the caregiver about the nonintentional nature of the psychotic features and offering coping strategies. Approaches for the patient involve behavior modification; appropriate use of sensory intervention; environmental safety; and maintenance of routines such as providing meals, exercise, and sleep on a consistent basis. Pharmacologic treatments should be governed by a "start low, go slow" philosophy; a monosequential approach is recommended, in which a single agent is titrated until the targeted behavior is reduced, side effects become intolerable, or the maximal dosage is achieved. Atypical antipsychotics have the greatest effectiveness and are best tolerated. Second-line medications include typical antipsychotics for short-term therapy; and, less often, anticonvulsants, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, antidepressants, and anxiolytics. Goals of treatment should include symptom reduction and preservation of quality of life.
ABSTRACT: Up to 5 percent of children in North America and western Europe experience at least one episode of febrile seizure before six years of age. Most of these seizures are self-limited and patients do not require treatment. Continuous therapy after the seizure is not effective in reducing the development of afebrile seizures. Antipyretics are effective in reducing the risk of febrile seizures if given early in the illness. Immediate care for the patient who has had a febrile seizure includes stopping the seizure, if prolonged, and evaluating the patient for the cause of the fever. Bacterial infections are treatable sources of fever but are not usually the cause of the fever that triggers a seizure. The patient must be assessed for these treatable sources. Long-term consequences of febrile seizure are rare in children who are otherwise healthy. Current recommendations do not support the use of continuing or intermittent neuroleptic or benzodiazepine suppressive therapies after a simple febrile seizure.
ABSTRACT: The development of newer classes of antidepressants and second-generation antiepileptic drugs has created unprecedented opportunities for the treatment of chronic pain. These drugs modulate pain transmission by interacting with specific neurotransmitters and ion channels. The actions of antidepressants and antiepileptic drugs differ in neuropathic and non-neuropathic pain, and agents within each medication class have varying degrees of efficacy. Tricyclic antidepressants (e.g., amitriptyline, nortriptyline, desipramine) and certain novel antidepressants (i.e., bupropion, venlafaxine, duloxetine) are effective in the treatment of neuropathic pain. The analgesic effect of these drugs is independent of their antidepressant effect and appears strongest in agents with mixed-receptor or predominantly noradrenergic activity, rather than serotoninergic activity. First-generation antiepileptic drugs (i.e., carbamazepine, phenytoin) and second-generation antiepileptic drugs (e.g., gabapentin, pregabalin) are effective in the treatment of neuropathic pain. The efficacy of antidepressants and antiepileptic drugs in the treatment of neuropathic pain is comparable; tolerability also is comparable, but safety and side effect profiles differ. Tricyclic antidepressants are the most cost-effective agents, but second-generation antiepileptic drugs are associated with fewer safety concerns in elderly patients. Tricyclic antidepressants have documented (although limited) efficacy in the treatment of fibromyalgia and chronic low back pain. Recent evidence suggests that duloxetine and pregabalin have modest efficacy in patients with fibromyalgia.
ABSTRACT: The recognizable appearance and the dermatomal distribution of herpes zoster lesions usually enable a clinical diagnosis to be made easily. Herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia occur mainly in older patients. The role of the varicella vaccine in preventing herpes zoster is uncertain, but is being studied. There is evidence to support using antiviral therapy and possibly low-dose tricyclic antidepressants to prevent postherpetic neuralgia. There is good evidence that treating herpes zoster with antiviral medication is beneficial, particularly in patients older than 50 years with severe outbreaks. The use of steroids has an unfavorable risk-benefit ratio. In patients who develop postherpetic neuralgia, there is good evidence to support treatment with gabapentin and tricyclic antidepressants. More evidence for treatment with capsaicin cream, lidocaine patch, and opioids is needed. Intrathecal methylprednisolone is an option for patients with persistent pain.
Medications for Migraine Prophylaxis - Article
ABSTRACT: Sufficient evidence and consensus exist to recommend propranolol, timolol, amitriptyline, divalproex, sodium valproate, and topiramate as first-line agents for migraine prevention. There is fair evidence of effectiveness with gabapentin and naproxen sodium. Botulinum toxin also has demonstrated fair effectiveness, but further studies are needed to define its role in migraine prevention. Limited evidence is available to support the use of candesartan, lisinopril, atenolol, metoprolol, nadolol, fluoxetine, magnesium, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), coenzyme Q10, and hormone therapy in migraine prevention. Data and expert opinion are mixed regarding some agents, such as verapamil and feverfew; these can be considered in migraine prevention when other medications cannot be used. Evidence supports the use of timed-release dihydroergotamine mesylate, but patients should be monitored closely for adverse effects.