Corticosteroids including ACTH for childhood epilepsy other than epileptic spasms

  • Review
  • Intervention




Epilepsy is a disorder with recurrent epileptic seizures. Corticosteroids have been used in the treatment of children with epilepsy and have significant adverse effects. Their efficacy and tolerability have not been not clearly established.


To determine the efficacy of corticosteroids in terms of seizure control, improvements in cognition and in quality of life and tolerability of steroids compared to placebo or other antiepileptic drugs.

Search methods

We searched the following databases: The Cochrane Epilepsy Group Specialized Register (September 2006); Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library Issue 2, 2006); MEDLINE (1966 - April 2004); EMBASE (1966 - December 2004); Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effectiveness (DARE) (December 2004).

We checked the reference lists of retrieved studies for additional reports of relevant studies.

Selection criteria

All randomized controlled trials of administration of corticosteroids to children (less than 16 years) with epilepsy.

Data collection and analysis

Three review authors independently selected trials for inclusion and extracted data. Outcomes included cessation of seizures, reduction in seizure frequency, improvement in cognition, quality of life and adverse effects of steroids.

Main results

A single RCT was included that recruited five patients in double blind crossover trial. One was withdrawn prematurely from the study and another had infantile spasms and hence was excluded from further analysis. ACTH 4-9 was administered. The overall reduction in seizure frequency of more than 25% and less than 50% occurred in one child at low dose and in two children at higher dose. One child did not show any reduction in seizure frequency. No adverse effects were reported.

Authors' conclusions

No evidence was found for the efficacy or safety of corticosteroids in treating childhood epilepsies. Clinicians using steroids in childhood epilepsies, other than for epileptic spasms, should take this into account before using these agents.

Plain language summary

Corticosteroids including ACTH for childhood epilepsy other than epileptic spasms

The role of corticosteroids in children with epilepsy is yet to be established.

Corticosteroids have been used in different forms and doses for various types of epilepsy in children. The review found no evidence for efficacy or safety of corticosteroids in the treatment of children with epilepsy. There is a need for larger, well-designed studies.