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Epilepsy Health Center

Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy Linked to Autism

Study Shows Epilepsy in People With Autism Is Often Hard to Treat
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Autism Patients With Epilepsy continued...

Devinsky found that four patients who underwent epilepsy surgery had little or no improvement. Nine patients had another treatment, vagus nerve stimulation. Two of those had limited improvement and seven had no improvement in their epilepsy, he says.

"If a person with autism develops epilepsy and it's not easily contained with medication, he should seek consultation or care at an epilepsy center," Devinsky says.

If a child with autism has a seizure, he says, it's important to get an evaluation.

Autism and Epilepsy Linked, but Why?

The new research confirms what experts have suspected, says Solomon Moshe, MD, professor of neurology, neuroscience, and pediatrics and director of child neurology and clinical neurophysiology, Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, N.Y.

It also provides interesting data, he says. He reviewed the study findings for WebMD but was not involved in the study.

Experts can't explain the link between epilepsy and autism, Moshe says. "There may be a subset of genes that account for both the expression of autistic behavior and the seizure.”

The link is under study by experts, including a task force of the International League Against Epilepsy, says Moshe. He is president of the organization. The journal Epilepsia is published on behalf of the International League Against Epilepsy.

Until more is known, Moshe says, those with autism or their caregivers need to be aware that the two conditions can occur together.

The hope, he says, is to develop medication that could treat both.

Another researcher has found that vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) can help some with autism and epilepsy. "VNS can be a very safe adjunct in the treatment of epilepsy in kids both with and without autism," says Michael L. Levy, MD, PhD, a doctor at Children's Hospital of San Diego, University of California.

In his study, published last year in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics, Levy looked at 77 children with autism spectrum disorder and epilepsy. He found they responded as well as other patients who did not have autism. They also had improvement in quality-of-life measures.

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