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Literature Review: Support for caregivers of children on the ketogenic diet for epilepsy and other neurologic disorders.

Epilepsy affects millions of people and when medications are insufficient to maintain seizure control, individuals are diagnosed with refractory epilepsy (RE). Medical ketogenic diet therapy (KDT), a diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates and sufficient in protein, is a well-established treatment for RE. However, compliance is one of the main reasons for discontinuation of KDT and, with pediatric RE patients, the ability of informal caregivers, typically family members, to maintain diet adherence is vital for successful KDT treatment. The central role that informal caregivers play for effective KDT implementation is recognized, however, there is a need to elucidate the rationale and theoretical underpinnings of effective KDT caregiver support programs to inform best practices. Therefore, this systematic literature review aims to identify the existing fundamental understandings of KDT caregiver support to help build a foundation of theory-based knowledge to promote evidenced practice. After screening 137 publications, three studies that discussed potential underlying components of effective caregiver support were included in this review. These articles followed a similar approach as they 1) employed qualitative methods delving into caregiver needs, 2) findings highlighted the importance of support from family, friends, fellow caregivers and their child's medical team, and 3) the inclusion of caregiver support findings were a supplement to the main purpose of the manuscript. Research focused on KDT caregivers is in its infancy. There is a clear need for the systematic examination of support for KDT caregivers to build a foundation for effective support programs and to increase the access to quality support programming to foster KDT implementation, desirable patient outcomes, and caregiver well being. In this article we discuss opportunities to apply self-determination theory to the KDT caregiver support research and practice.

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