What Is a CT Scan?

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A computerized tomography scan (CT or CAT scan) uses computers and rotating X-ray machines to create cross-sectional images of the body. These images provide more detailed information than normal X-ray images. They can show the soft tissues, blood vessels, and bones in various parts of the body. A CT scan may be used to visualize the:

  • head
  • shoulders
  • spine
  • heart
  • abdomen
  • knee
  • chest

During a CT scan, you lie in a tunnel-like machine while the inside of the machine rotates and takes a series of X-rays from different angles. These pictures are then sent to a computer, where they’re combined to create images of slices, or cross-sections, of the body. They may also be combined to produce a 3-D image of a particular area of the body.

Why Is a CT Scan Performed?

A CT scan has many uses, but it’s particularly well-suited for diagnosing diseases and evaluating injuries. The imaging technique can help your doctor:

  • diagnose infections, muscle disorders, and bone fractures
  • pinpoint the location of masses and tumors (including cancer)
  • study the blood vessels and other internal structures
  • assess the extent of internal injuries and internal bleeding
  • guide procedures, such as surgeries and biopsies
  • monitor the effectiveness of treatments for certain medical conditions, including cancer and heart disease

The test is minimally invasive and can be conducted quickly.

How Is a CT Scan Performed?

Your doctor may give you a special dye called a contrast materialto help internal structures show up more clearly on the X-ray images. The contrast material blocks X-rays and appears white on the images, allowing it to highlight the intestines, blood vessels, or other structures in the area being examined. Depending on the part of your body that’s being inspected, you may need to drink a liquid containing the contrast. Alternatively, the contrast may need to be injected into your arm or administered through your rectum via an enema. If your doctor plans on using a contrast material, they may ask you to fast for four to six hours before your CT scan.

When it comes time to have the CT scan, you’ll be asked to change into a hospital gown and to remove any metal objects. Metal can interfere with the CT scan results. These items include jewelry, glasses, and dentures. Your doctor will then ask you to lie face up on a table that slides into the CT scanner. They’ll leave the exam room and go into the control room where they can see you and hear you. You’ll be able to communicate with them via an intercom.

While the table slowly moves you into the scanner, the X-ray machine will rotate around you. Each rotation produces numerous images of thin slices of your body. You may hear clicking, buzzing, and whirring noises during the scan. The table will move a few millimeters at a time until the exam is finished. The entire procedure may take anywhere from 20 minutes to one hour.

It’s very important to lie still while CT images are being taken because movement can result in blurry pictures. Your doctor may ask you to hold your breath for a short period during the test to prevent your chest from moving up and down. If a young child needs a CT scan, the doctor may recommend a sedative to keep the child from moving.

Once the CT scan is over, the images are sent to a radiologist for examination. A radiologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions using imaging techniques, such as CT scans and X-rays. Your doctor will follow-up with you to explain the results.

What Are the Risks Associated with a CT Scan?

There are very few risks associated with a CT scan. Though CT scans expose you to more radiation than typical X-rays, the risk of cancer caused by radiation is very small if you only have one scan. Your risk for cancer may increase over time if you have multiple X-rays or CT scans. The risk of cancer is increased in children receiving CT scans, especially to the chest and abdomen.

Some people have an allergic reaction to the contrast material. Most contrast material contains iodine, so if you’ve had an adverse reaction to iodine in the past, make sure to notify your doctor. Your doctor may give you allergy medication or steroids to counteract any potential side effects if you’re allergic to iodine but must be given contrast.

It’s also important to tell your doctor if you’re pregnant. Though the radiation from a CT scan is unlikely to harm your baby, your doctor may recommend another exam, such as an ultrasound or MRI scan, to minimize risk.

What Do CT Scan Results Mean?

CT scan results are considered normal if the radiologist didn’t see any tumors, blood clots, fractures, or other abnormalities in the images. If any abnormalities are detected during the CT scan, you may need further tests or treatments, depending on the type of abnormality found.

Are Cerebral Palsy & Epilepsy connected

Around half of all children with cerebral palsy also have epilepsy. Both cerebral palsy and epilepsy are neurological disorders that often coexist with one another.

What is Epilepsy?

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders, epilepsy encompasses a “spectrum of brain disorders,” in which the pattern of normal neuronal activity is disrupted. [1] When the activity of brain cells, or neurons, is disturbed, convulsions (known as seizures) and muscle spasms result.

During these episodes, some children will experience loss of consciousness. As the fourth most common neurological disorder in the world, epilepsy can affect anyone at any age. Around 1 out of every 100,000 people develop epilepsy each year.

There are a number of different types of seizures, and people with epilepsy may experience one or several of the various types. It’s important to note that there is a difference between epilepsy and seizures. Someone who has only one seizure generally does not have epilepsy.

Epilepsy is marked by recurrent seizures. If someone has at least two but usually more seizures as an ongoing condition, they are more likely to be diagnosed with a seizure disorder, otherwise known as epilepsy.

What Causes Epilepsy?

For about half of epilepsy cases, there’s no known cause. Among the known causes of epilepsy, the most common include:

Prenatal Injuries

During intrauterine life, the developing brain of a fetus is highly susceptible to damage. This can occur from prenatal infections, maternal alcohol and drug use, when the oxygen or blood supply is low, and with poor nutrition or vitamin deficiencies.

Developmental and Genetic Disorders 

As mentioned earlier, cerebral palsy and epilepsy often coexist. Other neurodevelopmental and genetic disorders that can be associated with epilepsy include conditions like autism, neurofibromatosis, Angelman syndrome, and many others.

Sometimes a mutation in one or more genes can cause abnormalities in the brain that can be passed down and make a whole family more susceptible to epilepsy or other brain disorders.

Head Trauma

Head trauma, such as birth injuries, motor vehicle collisions, or any accident in which the head undergoes traumatic damage can lead to epilepsy. [2]

Diseases

A number of infectious diseases can cause direct damage to brain tissue, such as viral encephalitis and meningitis, which can result in epilepsy.

Oxygen Loss 

Any significant lack of oxygen to the brain before, during, or after birth, can cause seizures in babies. This can also occur with people of any age with a stroke, which is a bleed or obstruction to the blood flow in the brain. The brain damage that occurs is very often permanent and may leave the child with a seizure disorder.

What are the Symptoms of Epilepsy?

The main symptom of epilepsy is recurrent seizures, which are marked by any of the following:

  • Uncontrollable, jerking body movements, usually in the arms and legs
  • Repetitive movements of the face, including lip-smacking or chewing
  • Loss of awareness
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty talking
  • Rigid, tense muscles
  • The skin may look pale or flushed
  • Racing heart
  • Dilated pupils or staring
  • Sweating
  • Tongue biting
  • Tremors

Keep in mind that not every child will experience all of these symptoms.

Epilepsy Treatment

Physicians usually treat epilepsy with medication. [3] The type of medicine prescribed is based on the particular seizure type experienced by the child. However, since each child is different, finding the correct medication, along with the right dosage, can be an arduous process.

Doctors usually prescribe the first medication at a low dosage to see how effective it is, and how many side effects the child will experience. Most epilepsy medications have significant side effects, especially when they are first started, which can include dizziness, weight gain, fatigue, nausea, skin rashes, and more, depending on which medication is prescribed.

Over half of the people who begin medication find success with this method of treatment, and with continued use, may even eventually become seizure-free. There are some for whom the medication works well to control the seizures, but they will have to continue on medicine for life in order to remain seizure-free.

If medications fail to work, physicians may recommend a treatment called vagus nerve stimulation. This involves the placement of a small device into the patient’s chest. This device sends low levels of electrical energy to stimulate the vagus nerve, which may reduce seizure activity between 20% and 40%.

The ketogenic diet is another treatment option for epilepsy that fails to respond to medication. It’s a strict diet, however, that entails substantially lowering carbohydrates while increasing fats. The body will then use fat for energy, as opposed to carbohydrates.

It is a difficult diet for families to follow because of the severe limitations in what the child may eat, as well as the continuous need to monitor for ketones.

You’ll need to work closely with your physician, as well as a dietitian or nutritional counselor, if you decide to have your child try the ketogenic diet, as some children may experience adverse side effects, including dehydration and nutritional deficiencies.

However, with proper medical supervision, the side effects are not too common. Around 10% to 15% of children who go on the ketogenic diet are seizure-free within a year, although it is very rare for people to be able to stay on this diet successfully for long periods of time.

If all other treatments have been exhausted, surgery may be considered as the next option. Surgical procedures are generally only performed as a last resort, and when doctors determine that the seizures occur in a specific part of the brain that doesn’t hinder vision, speech, hearing, or motor function. During the operation, the part of the brain that’s causing seizures is removed.

Studies on Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy

According to a scientific study published in the European Journal of Epilepsy, spastic quadriplegia and spastic diplegia are the most common types of cerebral palsy associated with epilepsy. [4] Symptoms of epilepsy generally start for children with cerebral palsy during the first year of life, some within the first month after birth.

Epilepsy Prognosis

If children respond well to medication, there’s a good chance that they’ll be seizure-free one day, and may even be able to discontinue epilepsy medication use. It is important to note, however, that many children with cerebral palsy will need to remain on medication to control their seizures for life.

The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMM) states that long-term survival rates are lowered when traditional treatment options, such as medications and surgery, fail to work. Accidents from uncontrollable seizures also play into the lower survival rate.

These are cases in which the severity of the seizure disorder is part of an overall more severe form of cerebral palsy, and many other organ systems are affected, leading to a shortened life span.

Epilepsy in childhood

Information about the diagnosis and treatment of childhood epilepsy and how epilepsy may affect a child’s life.

In the UK, epilepsy affects around 60,000 children and young people under 18. Epilepsy can start at any age including childhood. Epilepsy can start at any age, including in childhood. If your child develops epilepsy you may have questions or concerns.

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition (affecting the brain and nervous system) where a person has a tendency to have seizures that start in the brain.

The brain is made up of millions of nerve cells that use electrical signals to control the body’s functions, senses and thoughts. If the signals are disrupted, the person may have an epileptic seizure.

Not all seizures are epileptic. Other conditions that can look like epilepsy include fainting (syncope) due to a drop in blood pressure, and febrile convulsions due to a sudden rise in body temperature when a young child is ill. These are not epileptic seizures because they are not caused by disrupted brain activity.

See more about what is epilepsy?

What happens during a seizure?

There are many different types of epileptic seizure. The type of epileptic seizure a child has depends on which area of their brain is affected.

There are two main types of seizure: focal seizures (previously called partial seizures) and generalised seizures. Focal seizures affect only one side of the brain and generalised seizures affect both sides of the brain. Generally, adults and children have the same types of seizure. However, some may be more common in childhood than adulthood (for example, absence seizures which can be very brief and are often mistaken for ‘daydreaming’ or not paying attention).

Different seizures include:

  • jerking of the body 
  • repetitive movements
  • unusual sensations such as a strange taste in the mouth or a strange smell, or a rising feeling in the stomach.

In some types of seizure, a child may be aware of what is happening. In other types, a child will be unconscious and have no memory of the seizure afterwards.

Some children may have seizures when they are sleeping (sometimes called ‘asleep’ or ‘nocturnal’ seizures). Seizures during sleep can affect sleep patterns and may leave a child feeling tired and confused the next day.

See more about seizures.

Why does my child have epilepsy?

Some children develop epilepsy as a result of their brain being injured in some way. This could be due to a severe head injury, difficulties at birth, or an infection which affects the brain such as meningitis. Epilepsy with a known structural cause like this is sometimes called symptomatic epilepsy.

Some researchers now believe that the chance of developing epilepsy is probably always genetic to some extent, in that anyone who starts having seizures has always had some level of genetic tendency to do so. This level can range from high to low and anywhere in between. 

Even if seizures start after a brain injury or other structural change, this may be due to both the structural change and the person’s genetic tendency to have seizures combined. This makes sense if we consider that many people might have a similar brain injury but not all of them develop epilepsy afterwards.

See more about causes of epilepsy.

How is epilepsy diagnosed?

A diagnosis of epilepsy may be considered if your child has had more than one seizure. The GP will usually refer them to a paediatrician (a doctor who specialises in treating children). You (and your child if they can) may be asked to describe in detail what happened before, during and after the seizure.

Having a video recording of the seizure can help the paediatrician understand what is happening.

The paediatrician may also suggest a few tests to help with the diagnosis. The tests alone cannot confirm or rule out epilepsy, but they can give extra information to help find out why your child is having seizures.

See more about how epilepsy is diagnosed.

What is a childhood epilepsy syndrome?

If your child is diagnosed with a childhood epilepsy syndrome, this means their epilepsy has specific characteristics. These can include the type of seizure or seizures they have, the age when the seizures started and the specific results of an electroencephalogram (EEG).

An EEG test is painless, and it records the electrical activity of the brain.

Syndromes follow a particular pattern, which means that the paediatrician may be able to predict how your child’s condition will progress. Syndromes can vary greatly. Some are called ‘benign’ which means they usually have a good outcome and usually go away once the child reaches a certain age. Other syndromes are severe and difficult to treat. Some may include other disabilities and may affect a child’s development.

Treatment for children

Your child’s GP is normally responsible for their general medical care. The GP may refer your child to a paediatrician or paediatric neurologist (a children’s doctor who specialises in the brain and nervous system). An epilepsy specialist nurse may also be involved in their care.

Young people usually start to see a specialist in adult services (a neurologist) from around 16 years old.

Anti-epileptic drugs

Most people with epilepsy take anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) to control their seizures. The paediatrician can discuss with you whether AEDs are the best option for your child. Although AEDs aim to stop seizures from happening, they do not stop seizures while they are happening, and they do not cure epilepsy.

Most children stop having seizures once they are on an AED that suits them. Like all drugs, AEDs can cause side effects for some children. Some side effects go away as the body gets used to the medication, or if the dose is adjusted. If you are concerned about your child taking AEDs you can talk to their paediatrician, epilepsy nurse, GP or pharmacist. Changing or stopping your child’s medication without first talking to the doctor can cause seizures to start again or make seizures worse.

Although AEDs work well for many children, this doesn’t happen for every child. If AEDs don’t help your child, their doctor may consider other ways to treat their epilepsy.

Ketogenic diet

For some children who still have seizures even though they have tried AEDs, the ketogenic diet may help to reduce the number or severity of their seizures. The diet is a medical treatment, often started alongside AEDs and is supervised by trained medical specialists and dietitians. 

Epilepsy surgery

It may be possible for some children to have epilepsy surgery depending on the type of epilepsy they have and where in the brain their seizures start. Epilepsy surgery involves removing a part of the brain to stop or reduce the number of seizures a child has.

Will epilepsy affect my child’s life?

You may not be able to predict how epilepsy will affect your child’s life. However helping your child to manage their seizures and be open about their feelings can make a positive difference. Help your child’s school understand their condition to ensure they get the most out of their school and education.

Triggers for seizures

Some children’s seizures happen in response to triggers such as stress, excitement, boredom, missed medication, or lack of sleep. Keeping a diary of their seizures can help to see if there are any patterns to when seizures happen. If you recognise triggers, avoiding them as far as possible may help to reduce the number of seizures your child has.

Getting enough sleep, and well-balanced meals, will help keep your child healthy and may help to reduce their seizures.

See more about triggers

Immunisation (vaccination)

Some parents are nervous about immunisation, whether or not their child has epilepsy. The Department of Health recommends that every child is immunised against infectious diseases. This includes children who have epilepsy. If you are concerned about immunisations, your child’s GP or paediatrician can give you more information.

Behaviour

For some children, having epilepsy and taking AEDs will not affect their behaviour. However, some people may notice a change in their child’s mood or behaviour such as becoming irritable or withdrawn. Some children may be responding to how they feel about having epilepsy and how it affects them. They may also want to be treated the same as their siblings or friends and to feel that epilepsy isn’t holding them back. Encouraging your child to talk about their epilepsy may help them feel better.

Behaviour changes and problems can happen for all children regardless of having epilepsy and for many, may just be part of growing up. In a few children, irritable or hyperactive behaviour may be a side effect of AEDs. If you have concerns about changes in your child’s behaviour, you may want to talk to their doctor or epilepsy specialist nurse. 

Leisure activities

Most children with epilepsy can take part in the same activities as other children. Simple measures can help make activities such as swimming and cycling safer. For example, making sure there is someone with your child who knows how to help if a seizure happens.

See more about leisure and safety.

Can epilepsy change as children get older?

Seizures may change over time, either in type or frequency. Some children outgrow their epilepsy by their mid to late teens. This is called ‘spontaneous remission’. If they are taking AEDs and have been seizure-free for over two years, their doctor may suggest slowly stopping medication.

How might my child feel?

Having epilepsy can affect a child in different ways. Depending on their age and the type of seizures your child has, the impact may vary.

For some children having a diagnosis of epilepsy will not affect their day-to-day lives. For others it may be frightening or difficult to understand. They may feel embarrassed, isolated or different in front of their peers. Encouraging your child to talk about their concerns may help them to feel more positive.

Most children with epilepsy will have the same hopes and dreams as other children and seizures may not necessarily prevent them from reaching their goals.

See also Epilepsy in adolescence.

Your feelings as a parent

If your child is diagnosed with epilepsy you may have mixed emotions – for your child and for yourself. It can take time to come to terms with a diagnosis and how it may affect family life. You may feel worried or relieved. How you feel about the diagnosis may also change over time.

Down Syndrome and Epilepsy

ABOUT EPILEPSY

Epilepsy is a medical term to describe when the cells in a person’s brain have a tendency to give off abnormal electrical activity. As our brains control our bodies, this abnormal electrical activity may result in the person having unusual movements or sensations (sometimes called a “seizure”). There are lots of different types of epilepsy (so some people prefer the term “the Epilepsies”) because there are lots of different ways in which the brain cell electrical activity can impact on our bodies.

It is estimated that around 1 in every 10 people who have Down’s syndrome will develop epilepsy at some point in their lives, compared to around 1 in every 100 people who do not have Down’s syndrome. Just under half of the people with Down’s syndrome who have epilepsy develop it when they are less than a year old, mainly with Epileptic Spasms, but other types of seizure can occur, most often in teens or early adult years, though they can also occur in later life.

Epilepsy occurring at any age needs medical assessment, and medicines may be offered to try and control it. 

Epilepsy and Faith

There Are No Ifs

14-16 When they came back down the mountain to the other disciples, they saw a huge crowd around them, and the religion scholars cross-examining them. As soon as the people in the crowd saw Jesus, admiring excitement stirred them. They ran and greeted him. He asked, “What’s going on? What’s all the commotion?”

17-18 A man out of the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought my mute son, made speechless by a demon, to you. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and goes stiff as a board. I told your disciples, hoping they could deliver him, but they couldn’t.”

19-20 Jesus said, “What a generation! No sense of God! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? Bring the boy here.” They brought him. When the demon saw Jesus, it threw the boy into a seizure, causing him to writhe on the ground and foam at the mouth.

21-22 He asked the boy’s father, “How long has this been going on?”

“Ever since he was a little boy. Many times it pitches him into fire or the river to do away with him. If you can do anything, do it. Have a heart and help us!”

23 Jesus said, “If? There are no ‘ifs’ among believers. Anything can happen.”

24 No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the father cried, “Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!”

25-27 Seeing that the crowd was forming fast, Jesus gave the vile spirit its marching orders: “Dumb and deaf spirit, I command you—Out of him, and stay out!” Screaming, and with much thrashing about, it left. The boy was pale as a corpse, so people started saying, “He’s dead.” But Jesus, taking his hand, raised him. The boy stood up.

28 After arriving back home, his disciples cornered Jesus and asked, “Why couldn’t we throw the demon out?”

29 He answered, “There is no way to get rid of this kind of demon except by prayer.”

I came across this reading in an Epilepsy blog I was reading the other day and decided It was time I let you know I suffer from the condition.

I won’t telling you to much at the moment as I plan to make a video blog telling you all about my life with Epilepsy later this year (I hope).

What I will tell you at the moment is I wasn’t born with it, I developed it around the ages of 11 – 12yrs old. Apart from my late teens/early twenties I went about seven years without a seizure, as I was driving for four years and in those days you had to be seizure free for three years. Then one day they suddenly returned and naturally I gave up driving though I loved it.

Since that day I have had controlled epileptic seizures by medication.

Occasionally my epilepsy will get me down but I am a positive person, therefore most times when I have a seizure or turn as I call them they generally don’t bother me.

You may be asking where does my faith come into all of this.Well first of all I believe in Jesus ‘The Great Physician’, I also have a very supportive group of family and friends who understand my condition and lastly I have a great Neurologist and Epilepsy Nurse.

I’ll finish off by asking myself the question, “looking at verse 29 have I been praying hard enough?”

Ketogenic Diet for Epilepsy

The ketogenic diet for epilepsy (KDE) is a special diet that has helped many children and some adults achieve better (or even full) control of their seizures. It’s a first-line treatment for a few specific epilepsy syndromes, such as epilepsy due to mutations in GLUT-1 or pyruvate dehydrogenase deficiency.

Background

The ketogenic diet for epilepsy was developed in the 1920s by a Michigan doctor named Hugh Conklin. However, once effective medications were developed, the diet was used less and less frequently.2

It has regained recognition and has become a standard backup plan for children whose epilepsy symptoms are difficult to control with medication.1 With more than 470,000 children living with seizure disorders in the United States (according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics), it’s an important addition to the arsenal of treatments for epilepsy.

Researchers are also beginning to see how it might help adults with epilepsy and people with a variety of neurologic disorders.

What It Entails

The ketogenic diet for epilepsy is a very high-fat diet with just enough protein for body maintenance and growth, and very low amounts of carbohydrate.

When fats are broken down for energy, the body goes into what’s called a ketogenic state, in which the body generates molecules called ketones. The goal of the KDE is for the brain to use ketones for energy rather than glucose (sugar) as much as possible.

Ketones are (largely) water-soluble, so they are easily transported to the brain. The brain cannot use fatty acids for energy, but it can use ketones for a large portion of its energy requirements.1

The KDE is usually begun in a hospital setting and often begins with a one- to two-day fasting period, though there may be a trend away from both of these requirements.3

After determining the proper amount of protein (depending on age, etc.), the diet is structured as a ratio of fat grams to protein grams, plus carb grams. It usually begins with a 4 to 1 ratio and can be fine-tuned from there. The diet is often calorie and fluid-limited.4 Additionally, no packaged low-carb foods (shakes, bars, etc.) are allowed for at least the first month.

Because a gram of fat has more than twice the calories of a gram of protein or carbohydrate, this equation means that at least 75% of the calories in the diet come from fat. This is a very strict diet, and it takes time to learn how to put together meals that fit the formula. All food must be weighed and recorded.

Weaning off the diet is often attempted after two years, though some children are kept on it for longer.

Why It Works

Researchers are beginning to understand why the ketogenic diet works to lower seizure frequency. According to a 2017 review of studies, it appears that several mechanisms may be at work, including the following.

  • The diet appears to alter ketone metabolism in the brain in a way that enhances the brain’s ability to produce the neurotransmitter GABA, which has a calming effect on the brain.1
  • The diet has significant anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative impacts, which appear to alter the way some genes involved in epilepsy are expressed.
  • Certain fatty acids featured in the diet have anticonvulsant effects and have even been shown to boost the effects of valproic acid—a common anti-seizure medication.
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet may prevent brain cells from becoming overexcited.
  • Decanoic acid, which is part of the diet as well, appears to have a direct inhibitory reaction on the AMPA receptors in the brain. These receptors are believed to play a role in epilepsy and are the target of some epilepsy medications.
  • Effects on a key sensor of cellular energy appear to help prevent excessive firing of brain cells.
  • The diet may impact circadian activities and the expression of a growth factor in the brain in a beneficial way.5

Effectiveness

Studies generally show that about a third of children with epilepsy who follow the ketogenic diet will have at least a 90% reduction in seizures, and another third will experience a reduction of between 50% and 90%.46

This is remarkable, considering that these patients are generally those whose seizures are not well-controlled with medications.

In Adults

A growing number of studies have been done on the KDE and modified Atkins Diet in adults with seizure disorders, and the results are similar to studies with children.

One 2014 study reported that 45% of adolescent and adult participants saw a reduction of seizure frequency of 50% or greater. Tolerability appeared better in those with symptomatic generalized epilepsy.

Interestingly, it was more difficult to keep adults on the diet, since they obviously have more control over what they eat. Research is still limited in this area and more trials are needed.7

In Pregnancy

A 2017 report on use of these diets during pregnancy suggests they may be an effective way to control seizures and could possibly allow pregnant women to use lower doses of epilepsy medication. However, the safety of this still needs to be examined.8

Work With Your Medical Team

It is vital that anyone using this diet for a seizure disorder do it under the supervision of an experienced physician and dietitian. Many individual variations can influence the exact diet recommendations for each person, and coordinating this eating plan with medications can be tricky. It’s not something you should ever attempt on your own.

A Typical Day’s Menu

Below is a shortened description of a menu appearing in the 2015 Pediatric Annals article, “The Ketogenic Diet: A Practical Guide for Pediatricians.” It’s meant to give the idea of what children eat on the diet, not serve as an exact prescription. Remember, all of these foods are carefully weighed and measured.

  • Breakfast: Eggs made with heavy cream, cheese, and butter; small serving of strawberries, pineapple, or cantaloupe
  • Lunch: Hamburger patty topped with cheese; cooked broccoli, green beans, or carrots with melted butter; whipped heavy cream
  • Dinner: Grilled chicken breast with cheese and mayonnaise; cooked vegetables with butter; whipped heavy cream
  • Snacks: Whipped heavy cream, small servings of fruit, sugar-free gelatin

Variations substitute coconut oil or MCT oil for some of the heavy cream and butter.

Eating While at School

With a school-aged child, keeping them on the diet during the school day is difficult but essential. Thinking and planning ahead can help you be successful. You may want to try some of the following strategies:

  • Talk to your child: Make sure your child understands the diet and why sticking to it is essential. Let them know they shouldn’t trade food with other kids. As hard as it is, they also shouldn’t eat food from vending machines or treats handed out in class.
  • Talk to the school: The teacher, guidance counselor, nurse, and administration all need to be aware of your child’s special dietary needs (as well as other health-related matters). You’ll want to have regular conversations with them, and you may want to have a 504 plan or individualized education plan (IEP) in place as well.
  • Become a planner: Gather several recipes for appropriate meals that can make convenient, easy-to-pack lunches. If possible, you may want to provide appropriate treats for your child for holiday parties and other special events that you may know about ahead of time. The Charlie Foundation and Clara’s Menu are good resources for child-friendly keto recipes.
  • Educate family members: It’s important that family members and any regular caregivers know how to prepare a meal for the child with epilepsy.
  • Establish routines: The timing of meals and snacks needs to be consistent in order for your child’s glucose levels to remain as stable as possible. You may need to work with your child’s teacher(s) on this.
  • Involve a friend: Having a friend at school who understands the importance of your child’s diet may help them feel less awkward about being “different” and give them someone to lean on for support when needed. Make sure your child is OK with this and give them input on which friend to choose.

You’ll also want to make parents of your child’s friends aware of the special diet and that what some people may consider “a little harmless cheating” may not be harmless at all. It’s a good idea to provide food for your child to take to parties and playdates.How to Raise Kids Who Are on a Special Diet

Alternatives to the Super-Strict Ketogenic Diet

The Modified Atkins Diet is a popular alternative that helps many who find the ketogenic diet too difficult to adhere to. This diet is far less restrictive, as calories, fluids, and protein are not measured.9

The diet begins with 10 grams of carbohydrate per day for the first month, which slowly increases to 15 or 20 grams. It is similar to the very strict induction phase of the standard Atkins diet.

One 2014 study reported that 45% of adolescent and adult participants saw a reduction of seizure frequency of 50% or greater. Tolerability appeared better in those with symptomatic generalized epilepsy.