Therapeutic approach to epileptic encephalopathies



Epileptic encephalopathies (EEs) are electroclinical entities with a peculiar course of disease; seizures and electroencephalographic (EEG) epileptiform abnormalities, ictal and interictal, contribute to progressive disturbance of cerebral functions. Frequently EEs are drug resistant, and consequences may be catastrophic. The main goal of treatment is to stop the peculiar course of epilepsy, operating on three parameters: seizure control, reduction of EEG abnormalities, and developmental outcome. For a correct therapeutic approach it is mandatory to have an as accurate as possible syndromic and etiologic diagnosis. Given the poor efficacy of conventional antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), the use of specific drugs for EEs, such as adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and corticosteroids or stiripentol is suggested. In some cases the choice of treatment is strictly related to the etiology: vigabatrin in tuberous sclerosis, ketogenic diet in glucose transporter type 1 (GLUT-1) deficiency, and pyridoxine in pyridoxine deficiency. Some AEDs combinations, such as sodium valproate with lamotrigine, have also provided interesting results, for example, in Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, although controlled studies are lacking. Finally, early surgery can be an option in children with focal structural abnormalities responsible for EEs preferably before irreversible damage on developmental outcome. Multispecialist support is recommended in EE. Management should be global from the onset, integrating not only seizure control but also all issues related to comorbidities, particularly neuropsychological and psychiatric.