Department of Neurology

Non-medication treatment of epilepsy

Q: Hi my name is Todd and I have epilepsy. I'm 25 years old and my epileptic problems began when I was around 11 years old. I have been wondering if there is a non-medication treatment for people like me who really have a bad case of epilepsy. I have been wondering about ketogeic diet and if there is ketogenic diet for adults. I also heard about other new treatments for epileptic people. If you know any other treatments for people like me who have a bad case please email me back.


A: There are currently two scientifically established non-medical therapies for intractable adult epilepsy. The first is epilepsy surgery, in which the seizure focus in the brain is removed. The other involves a recently approved device, the Neurocybernetic Prosthesis or vagus nerve stimulator. There are pros and cons of either therapy, but both are important adjuncts to medication. In both cases, it is likely that medications will still be needed, though they can often be reduced. In some persons, medications can be stopped after brain surgery.

As for the ketogenic diet, its effectiveness and safety is not established in adults. The latter is especially a concern; the ketogenic diet is mostly fat and includes items such as bacon and whipping cream. Not only is it unpalatable, but there is reason to think that it could cause serious heart and brain disease (atherosclerosis).

There are many anectdotes about other alternative therapies. The best way to summarize them is that they are not proven either way to be effective or ineffective.

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