• Childhood absence epilepsy;
  • Juvenile absence epilepsy;
  • Antiepileptic drug;
  • Valproic acid

Summary:  Purpose: In children with childhood absence epilepsy (CAE) and juvenile absence epilepsy (JAE), to determine the impact of failure of initial antiepileptic drug (AED) for lack of efficacy in eventual seizure control and long-term remission of epilepsy.

Methods: Centralized EEG records for the province of Nova Scotia allowed identification of all children seen with CAE or JAE between 1977 and 1985. Information regarding success or failure of initial AED in fully controlling seizures and long-term seizure control and remission of epilepsy was collected by patient questionnaire and chart review.

Results: Eighty-six of 92 eligible patients were followed up (75 CAE, 11 JAE). Initial AED treatment was successful in 52 (60%) of 86. Success tended to be greater for valproate (VPA) than for other AEDs (p = 0.07), and lower if generalized tonic–clonic or myoclonic seizures coexisted (p < 0.004 and p < 0.03). Terminal remission was more likely if the initial AED was successful than if it had failed (69% vs. 41%; p < 0.02). Compared with those in whom the initial AED was successful, subjects whose initial AED had failed were more likely to progress to juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME) at last follow-up (32% vs. 10%; p < 0.02) and to develop intractable epilepsy (17% vs. 2%; p < 0.04).

Conclusions: Initial AED was successful in 60% of children with AE. If the first AED failed, the outcome was less favorable, with a lower rate of terminal remission and a higher rate of progression to JME and intractable epilepsy.