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Fat is good. "Ketogenic" refers to the production of ketones in the body, which are formed when the body uses fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. A higher level of ketones in the body often leads to better control of seizures.
One treatment for refractory epilepsy (epilepsy that does not respond to seizure medicines) that’s getting some surprising results is the ketogenic diet. This specialized diet, which is high in fats and proteins and restricts the intake of carbohydrates, mimics starvation by burning fat instead of glucose for energy.
Of the children who have incorporated the diet into their lives, about one-third have become seizure-free. One-third have shown a marked improvement. One third of the patients do not respond to the diet. We do not know which patients will respond well beforehand.
A ketogenic diet restricts a child’s intake of carbohydrates and emphasizes calories obtained from fats and proteins. In a normal diet, the body uses carbohydrates for fuel, but in the ketogenic diet, fats become the primary fuel.
There’s a reason why Children’s Hospital's Brain Care Institute is one of the highest-funded research centers in the nation — we deliver results through research and clinical studies that bring to light new treatments in epilepsy and other areas of pediatric medicine. View our open clinical studies to see if your child qualifies.
If your child has epilepsy that doesn’t respond adequately to medication, or he or she is not a good candidate for epilepsy surgery, the ketogenic diet may be an ideal choice. The diet has been used for treatment of intractable epilepsy in pediatric hospitals since the 1950s, and has become more commonly used since the 1990s. Epilepsy doctors typically recommend the ketogenic diet for children who have not responded to two or more trials of seizure medicines or are felt not to be ideal candidates for epilepsy surgery. It is particularly effective in helping children with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. The less-restrictive modified Atkins™ diet may be prescribed for children who cannot tolerate the ketogenic diet or who find it too difficult to follow.
Learn more about the Brain Care Institute’s Epilepsy Center and Epilepsy Surgery Center.
The Ketogenic Diet Clinic at Children’s Hospital’s Brain Care Institute provides coordinated multidisciplinary care of children who are using a dietary approach to treating intractable epilepsy. This forum also allows families using these diets to meet and share experiences and lend support to one another. Our center averages about 35 to 50 children under treatment with either the ketogenic or a modified Atkins diet at any one time. The clinic also provides comprehensive follow-up care for children to monitor for tolerance issues and side effects of these therapies.
An epilepsy patient who has not responded to two or more anti-epileptic medications may be eligible for treatment with the ketogenic diet. The patient has to see one of the Brain Care Institute's epileptologists before the referral. The patient then will be screened for any underlying metabolic problems before initiating the diet as an inpatient over a three- to five-day hospital stay.
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UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
One Children’s Hospital Way
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
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