The Cedars-Sinai Epilepsy Program understands that epilepsy is a challenging condition. This section is designed to help patients and families better understand epilepsy, so they can make well-informed decisions and participate in their recovery.
Frequently Asked Questions
Epilepsy is an ongoing disorder of the nervous system that produces sudden, intense bursts of electrical activity in the brain. These bursts cause seizures, which may briefly affect muscle control, movement, speech, vision and awareness. People with epilepsy have repeated seizures, usually without warning and for no clear reason.
Currently, there is no cure. In some patients, seizures can go away over time. Children with mild to moderate epilepsy have a high chance of being seizure-free 20 years after they were first diagnosed. Adults and children with more severe epilepsy have a lower chance of ever being seizure-free. However, the condition can be well managed with medication or surgery.
Treatment focuses on controlling the seizures. Treatments vary based on the type of seizures, the age of the patient and his or her lifestyle. Options include:
- Medication. This is the most common approach to treating epilepsy. Anti-epileptic medications do not cure epilepsy, but they help prevent seizures in well over half of the people who take them.
- Brain surgery. Some patients with partial epilepsy do not respond to medication but have great success with surgery. Surgery is highly effective in treating many pediatric types of epilepsy that have not responded to other medical therapies.
- Vagus nerve stimulator. This device is used with medication or surgery to reduce seizures.
- Ketogenic diet. A high-fat diet has been used with some success to treat people (especially children) who have severe, uncontrolled seizures.
- RNS. A responsive neurostimulation device or RNS system is a responsive direct brain stimulation treatment for adults with medically refractory epilepsy. The RNS system utilizes a neurostimulator implanted in the skull with one or two leads implanted in the brain at the focal points of the seizures.
The Cedars-Sinai Epilepsy Program relies on experts in a number of disciplines to provide the best possible ongoing care to patients with epilepsy. Our staff includes epileptologists, neurosurgeons, neuropsychologists, neuroradiologists, neurodiagnostic technologists and epilepsy nurse specialists. Our team works together to develop the best care plan for each individual based on his or her specific needs and type of epilepsy.
The Epilepsy Program in the Cedars-Sinai Neurology Department is recognized by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers as a level 4 epilepsy center with a team of experts and facilities capable of treating patients with complex epilepsy.
You will need a physician referral to be admitted to Cedars-Sinai for inpatient medical care. Depending on your healthcare insurance, you may need a referral and authorization from your primary care physician before seeing one of our specialists.
For information on reaching us from outside the United States, contact our International Health Services team.
The most useful way to diagnose epilepsy is an electroencephalogram (EEG). This records electrical activity in the brain. The EEG can record unusual spikes or waves in electrical activity patterns. Different types of epilepsy can be identified with these patterns.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans may be used to look at the cause and the location within the brain. The scans can show scar tissue, tumors or structural problems in the brain.
Routine lab tests may be used to rule out other medical conditions that might be causing the seizures.
- A complete blood count will provide the doctor with information regarding infection, abnormal electrolyte levels (such as magnesium, potassium and calcium), kidney or liver malfunction, or genetic conditions.
- A lumbar puncture (spinal tap) can rule out infections, such as spinal meningitis and encephalitis.
- A toxicology screening can show poisons, illegal drugs or other toxins.
It is important to be prepared for your appointment in order to ensure the time spent with your physician is as beneficial as possible. To prepare for your appointment, you can:
- Write down and bring with you any questions you have about your condition or treatment.
- Keep a record of your symptoms, including any changes you may have noticed between appointments and if the symptoms are affecting your work or personal life.
- Bring a list of your current medications.
- Bring your prior medical records if you are transferring from a medical provider outside of Cedars-Sinai (you may be asked to send the documents in advance of your appointment).
- Fill out any required paperwork in advance, including medical record release authorization forms, referral request forms, patient intake form and the patient privacy form.
Yes, we always encourage patients to bring a spouse, family member or close friend with them to their appointments.
Neuroscience experts at Cedars-Sinai use their clinical experience and research knowledge to lead the way in finding new treatments, techniques and diagnostic procedures. Our clinical trials are open to all eligible participants, and patients are encouraged to pursue involvement. General information about participation in clinical trials at Cedars-Sinai can be found in our Patients and Visitors Guide.
Information on publications by our expert neurosciences team can be found at PubMed.