Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital has launched an Infantile Epilepsy Center that focuses on the potentially devastating diagnosis of infantile spasms and other rare epilepsies that affect children under two-years-old.
The seizures typically present as small involuntary movements, crunches or spasms and require a rapid diagnosis to prevent developmental delay or worsening of prior development.
“Infants are not just small children,” said Sarah Weatherspoon, MD, an assistant professor of Pediatric Neurology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Director of the Infantile Epilepsy Center at Le Bonheur Children’s. “Infantile epilepsy requires specific techniques, diagnostics and treatments.”
The center is part of Le Bonheur’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Program and includes neurology, neurodiagnostics, neuropsychology, neuroradiology, neuro-ophthalmology, genetics, clinical nutrition, pediatrics and speech therapy/feeding assessment.
As the only Infantile Epilepsy Center in the Southeast United States and one of only three centers dedicated to the condition in the country, Le Bonheur’s standardized approach provides efficient and rapid access to expert care. Infants with suspected epilepsy are immediately assessed and provided with a tailored approach including EEG monitoring, diagnostic testing and a treatment plan. Rapid diagnosis and treatment are vital to preventing developmental arrest or delay.
“The Infantile Epilepsy Center is an example of the culture of excellence we have built at Le Bonheur Children’s,” said Le Bonheur President and CEO Michael Wiggins. “Our clinical team continues to innovate and look for ways to ensure children can grow up healthy and strong.”
When 14-month-old Westin began dropping his head unexpectedly, his mother Jennifer Hopper knew she was watching more than just baby reflexes. “Originally, our pediatrician didn’t think anything was wrong. He hadn’t seen anything like this before,” said Jennifer. “But I had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right.”
After several days of these head drops, Jennifer took her son to the Emergency Department at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Within 24 hours Westin was diagnosed with infantile spasms – a type of infantile epilepsy that can wreak havoc on a child’s development.
Westin Hopper’s diagnosis of infantile spasms is a condition which Weatherspoon often sees only after it has gone untreated for much too long.
“Unfortunately, many children are not diagnosed with infantile spasms in time and go on to have permanent developmental problems and worsening seizures,” said Weatherspoon. “They need to be seen immediately and started on appropriate treatment within a week of when their spasms begin.”
Infantile spasms typically arise between the ages of 4-12 months. These seizures are small and seemingly innocuous. While they don’t have the visual impact of a tonic-clonic (or “grand mal”) seizure, these spasms have a large impact on development. Each week of untreated spasms leads to a drop in intelligence (IQ).
Fortunately for Westin, his mother’s intuition allowed him to be seen soon enough to start effective treatment, allowing him to make progress in his motor and verbal development after his diagnosis. “Thanks to the team from Le Bonheur, we have a little boy who continues to improve developmentally,” said Jennifer.
Caught quickly, appropriate treatment can stop infantile spasms and epilepsy in its tracks. The typical treatment is combination therapy with adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and vigabatrin, but the approach is always tailored to each child. With these medications, spasms can disappear in as little as a few days. The Infantile Epilepsy Center also uses other treatments such as anti-seizure medications, dietary therapy and epilepsy surgery to help control infantile epilepsy.
About Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital
Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., treats children each year through community programs, regional clinics and a 255 bed state-of-the-art hospital. Le Bonheur serves as a primary teaching affiliate for the University Tennessee Health Science Center and trains more than 350 pediatricians and specialists each year. Nationally recognized, Le Bonheur is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a Best Children’s Hospital.
About The University of Tennessee Health Science Center
As Tennessee’s only public, statewide, academic health system, the mission of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is to bring the benefits of the health sciences to the achievement and maintenance of human health through education, research, clinical care, and public service, with a focus on the citizens of Tennessee and the region. The main campus in Memphis includes six colleges: Dentistry, Graduate Health Sciences, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. UTHSC also educates and trains medicine, pharmacy, and/or health professions students, as well as medical residents and fellows, at major sites in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville.