Role of valproate across the ages. Treatment of epilepsy in children

A Aldenkamp, F Vigevano, A Arzimanoglou, A Covanis
Acta Neurologica Scandinavica. Supplementum 2006, 184: 1-13
In June 2005 a team of experts participated in a workshop with the objective of reaching agreement on the place of valproate use in the treatment of paediatric epilepsy patients. A general "consensus of the meeting" was that the initiation of antiepileptic drug (AED) treatment should be based on a seizure-syndromic approach in children. Participants of the meeting also agreed that valproate is currently the AED with the broadest spectrum across all types of seizures and syndromes. Its superiority has been shown over almost 40 years of clinical experience. The best results are seen in idiopathic generalized epilepsy with or without photosensitivity, idiopathic focal and symptomatic generalized tonic-clonic seizures (GTCS). Evidence supports the use of valproate, ethosuximide and lamotrigine in absence epilepsies and the use of carbamazepine, lamotrigine, oxcarbazepine, phenytoin, topiramate, valproate and phenobarbital for primary GTCS. For new AEDs trials have been undertaken to define their therapeutic role but studies comparing their role to 'old' broad-spectrum drugs in specific syndromes are missing. Experts concluded that intravenous (i.v.) valproate is a useful agent in the treatment of non-convulsive status epilepticus (SE). There is an easy transition to oral treatment following i.v. valproate use. The discussion also concluded that, despite the lack of studies, valproate is an interesting, underutilized alternative in convulsive SE but more controlled studies are needed. The side effects of valproate use are well documented. Its effect on cognition and behaviour is more favourable than many of the other AEDs which is an important consideration in children. Overall, the clinical consensus of the meeting was that valproate's well established therapeutic properties far outweigh the negative side effects. Contraindication or withdrawal should be assessed individually.

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