The Role of Nonpharmaceutic Conservative Interventions in the Treatment and Secondary Prevention of Epilepsy
Article first published online: 23 OCT 2002
Volume 43, Issue Supplement s9, pages 2–5, November 2002
How to Cite
Wolf, P. (2002), The Role of Nonpharmaceutic Conservative Interventions in the Treatment and Secondary Prevention of Epilepsy. Epilepsia, 43: 2–5. doi: 10.1046/j.1528-1157.43.s.9.2.x
- Issue published online: 28 JUN 2008
- Article first published online: 23 OCT 2002
- Secondary prevention;
- Seizure facilitation;
- Seizure precipitation;
- Seizure arrest;
- Hygienic lifestyle
Summary: Nonpharmacologic conservative treatments receive too little attention. Depending on the clinical condition of the patients, they may be used alone or in conjunction with other therapies. Their target is the single seizure rather than the epileptic condition as such. They belong mainly to one of three domains.
Nonspecific prevention of seizures: The first step is the identification of factors facilitating the occurrence of seizures. In the second step, strategies to control these factors are developed. Most common are disturbances of the sleep–wake cycle, especially reduction of sleep. Patients should follow a regular sleep schedule with deviations of not >2 h. Sometimes a sleep calendar is helpful. Night shifts are not compatible with seizure prevention in these cases. Sleep disturbances as a facilitating factor of seizures are particularly common in juvenile idiopathic generalized epilepsies, in which their avoidance is in many cases an indispensable part of the therapeutic regimen, along with appropriate drug treatment. They are the most common precipitating factor in adolescents and adults with a first epileptic [mostly generalized tonic–clonic (GTC)] seizure. In these instances, their avoidance is central to the secondary prevention of epilepsy developing from the single seizure, whereas the prescription of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) is rarely effective. Other nonspecific facilitators of seizures include uncontrolled use of alcohol and extraordinary stress. Patients must learn how to cope with stressful events.
Specific prevention of seizures: In reflex epilepsies, specific precipitants of seizures are the targets of interventions. Thus, most patients with primary reading epilepsy begin to have, with prolonged reading, perioral reflex myoclonias, which enable them to stop reading and thus to avoid a GTC seizure. In photosensitive patients, seizures are often precipitated by television. These can be avoided by viewing from a distance and using a remote control, small screens in a well-lit room, and preferably with a 100-Hz line shift. Environmental flicker stimulation often comes unexpectedly, and it is advisable that the patients always wear sunglasses in brightly lighted surroundings. Polarized glasses seem to be more protective than plain sunglasses. If the patient has only photically induced seizures, treatment by specific prevention alone may be sufficient, but if spontaneous seizures also occur, drugs must be given in addition.
Arrest of seizures: Focal seizures that develop sufficiently slowly to leave the patient time to react may be interrupted by “countermeasures.” These, again, may be nonspecific (acting by relaxation, concentration, or a combination of both) or specific. The latter are individually tailored, based either on spontaneous experiences of the patient or on the anatomy of ictogenesis. Seizure propagation is blocked when a major part of the neurons involved is activated and not recruitable for spread of the epileptic discharge. Seizure arrest rarely is used alone but usually in combination with partially successful pharmacotherapy.