When Drugs Do Not Work: Alternatives to Antiseizure Medications

Author: Sara Dawit1, Amy Z Crepeau2
1 Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic, Phoenix, AZ, USA.
2 Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic, Phoenix, AZ, USA. Crepeau.amy@mayo.edu.
Conference/Journal: Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep
Date published: 2020 Jul 9
Other: Volume ID: 20 , Issue ID: 9 , Pages: 37 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1007/s11910-020-01061-3. , Word Count: 301

PMID: 32648170 DOI: 10.1007/s11910-020-01061-3

Purpose of review: Despite the increase in the number of novel antiseizure medications over the past 20 years, approximately one-third of patients will not have adequate seizure control on medications. For these patients, additional options need to be considered, including dietary, device, and surgical treatments. In addition, many complementary therapies can be considered as adjunctive treatment, with the intent of improving quality of life for persons with epilepsy and potentially allowing for improvement in seizure control.

Recent findings: This review outlines established and developing treatments for drug-resistant epilepsy. Surgical treatments, including resective surgery and vagus nerve stimulation, have been routine care for several decades. In the last several years, new neurostimulation options have been approved (responsive neurostimulation and deep brain stimulation) or are under development (continuous subthreshold cortical stimulation). For patients with lesion or well-defined seizure-onset zones, less invasive options including laser ablation and ultrasound therapy provide the potential for faster recovery times and less morbidity. Not all therapies are in the pharmacological or surgical arenas. This review also explores the evidence for complementary treatments, including relaxation and meditation techniques, and art and music therapy. Despite the range of antiseizure medications available, they still provide inadequate for a large number of patients with epilepsy, either due to ongoing seizures or intolerable side effects. Complementary therapies, including diet, meditation techniques, and music therapy, provide compelling treatment options to improve quality of life while potentially improving seizure control. In appropriate patients, stimulation devices or surgical resection can offer options for significant seizure reduction or even cure. The full range of therapeutics should be considered for each patient with epilepsy when they are struggling with inadequate seizure control or side effects with traditional pharmacological treatment.

Keywords: Alternative treatment; Behavioral intervention; Dietary therapy; Drug-resistant epilepsy; Neuromodulation; Self-management; Stress reduction.