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Comprehensive Epilepsy Program

At CHOC Children’s, we understand the challenges families face when a child experiences seizures. Our Comprehensive Epilepsy Program is a national leader in pediatric epilepsy care, offering cutting-edge diagnostics, innovative medical approaches and advanced surgical interventions from the nation’s foremost epilepsy experts. We were the first children’s hospital in California to be named a Level 4 epilepsy center by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers (NAEC). That means we have the professional expertise and facilities to provide the highest-level medical and surgical evaluation and treatment for patients with complex epilepsy in Orange County and beyond.

A Multidisciplinary Team

Our pediatric epileptologists are more qualified to treat seizures than anyone else in Orange County, with board certification in both child neurology and clinical neurophysiology and additional training in epilepsy. The team is led by Dr. Mary Zupanc, who is quadruple board-certified and one of an elite group of specialists in the country who has board certification in epilepsy.

Our dedicated team is here to coordinate care with families through every stage of care, from diagnosing seizures to finding the right medication or treatment, and managing the condition over time. At every clinic visit, families have access to a multidisciplinary team including:

  • Pediatric epileptologists who are board certified in child neurology and clinical neurophysiology
  • Nurse practitioners to help manage a child’s care
  • Pharmacists, who work directly with patients and families to discuss anti-epileptic medications and potential side effects, monitor dosages and effectiveness of medications, and assist with orphan drug procurement and clinical drug trials
  • Neurosurgeons, who perform surgery and consult with families before and after a procedure
  • Registered dietitians, who assist families in adapting to the ketogenic diet
  • Neuropsychologists, who conduct cognitive testing with patients and work with schools to modify a child’s academic programs; and
  • Social workers, who help families with financial and insurance concerns.

Our Approach to Seizure Management

Seizures and epilepsy affect children at different ages and in different ways. For some, it will be a temporary problem, easily controlled with medication and outgrown within years. For others, it may be an ongoing challenge that affects many areas of life. No matter a patient’s epilepsy type or stage of treatment, we offer the expert care and support that families need.

The CHOC Comprehensive Epilepsy Program is organized so that patients and families have easy access to our services at every stage of the process, from the first seizure through diagnosis and management, until it’s time to transition a patient into adult care. A pediatric-trained neuroscience nurse coordinator serves as an advocate for patients and their families throughout their epilepsy treatment by facilitating appointments, coordinating care between inpatient and outpatient areas, and assisting with discharge planning.

Two Epilepsy Monitoring Units

EMU Seizure MonitoringBy monitoring seizures as they happen, our pediatric epileptologists can gather valuable information that will help determine where a child’s seizures originate and how they spread in the brain. We offer two state-of-the-art Epilepsy Monitoring Units (EMU). The EMU at CHOC Children’s Orange includes eight private rooms, as well as five portable monitoring systems that can be used in any area of the hospital. Our EMU at CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital offers four private inpatient rooms. Learn more about long-term video EEG monitoring in our Epilepsy Monitoring Units.

Specialized Care for Every Need

Specialized services within our program are offered to meet the unique needs of each patient.

New Seizure Onset Clinic

The first time a child experiences a seizure is scary and stressful, leaving parents wondering where to start. Our New Seizure Onset Clinic is designed to see children within 48 to 72 hours after authorization from their pediatrician. Our expertise in the latest diagnostic testing will put your family on the path to answers, and our experience means only the most necessary tests will be ordered. Testing at this stage may include an EEG, MRI, scan of the brain, blood work and occasionally, a lumbar puncture.

Intractable Epilepsy Clinic

For patients whose epilepsy cannot be controlled by medication, our Intractable Epilepsy Clinic offers customized treatment planning for other options. We’ll help your family choose the right surgical procedure, device or clinical trial. CHOC Children’s is also a Dravet Syndrome Center of Excellence. Individuals with Dravet syndrome are at risk for serious complications that must be properly treated and managed by a team experienced with this rare form of intractable epilepsy.

Epilepsy Surgery

Surgery is not a last resort. We take a proactive stance and consider surgery early in treatment if a child has failed at least two medications. Surgery can result in an improvement in seizure control, quality of life and preventing permanent damage to the brain. We perform a host of procedures, including temporal lobectomies and extratemporal resections, as well as surgery for patients who have had unsuccessful epilepsy surgery elsewhere. Learn more about epilepsy surgery at CHOC.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Some children with seizures that cannot be controlled with medication may find vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) helpful. VNS uses a pacemaker-like device to send regular, mild pulses of electrical energy to the brain via the vagus nerve. Learn more about vagus nerve stimulation.

Ketogenic Diet Clinic

Some epilepsy patients benefit from the ketogenic diet, a special high-fat, low-carbohydrate known to minimize seizures in some children. At our inpatient Ketogenic Diet Clinic, registered dietitians will regulate a child’s diet closely and teach families how to continue the diet at home. Learn more about our Ketogenic Diet Clinic.

Tuberous Sclerosis Clinic

Through a designation by the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance, this specialized clinic treats children with tuberous sclerosis, a rare disorder that can cause epilepsy as well as growths inside the brain, heart, kidney and retinal area of the eye. Through the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance, we also have a TSC Clinical Ambassador, a parent volunteer who helps families and children deal with the emotional challenges of the disorder. Learn more about tuberous sclerosis.

Neuropsychological Testing and School Assistance

We know one of the most important aspects of a child’s life is school, which can be disrupted or changed for children with epilepsy. Our neuropsychologists conduct thorough testing with a child, communicate with his or her teachers and principals, and help develop special programs to support their academic activities. Learn more about our Neuropsychology Program.

Transition Clinic

Transitioning from childhood to adulthood often brings about challenges for a patient with epilepsy. Our Transition Clinic helps patients at this stage navigate issues such as independent living, conservatorship and career planning.

Helping Families at Every Stage

Grace's Story
By age 4, Grace Rogers was roller-blading and skateboarding. But her mother would notice that at times, she would appear to be off balance.

Febrile Seizures
Febrile seizures are convulsions that occur in some children with fevers. Although they can be frightening, they usually stop on their own.

Tips from a CHOC Mom
If your child has just been diagnosed with epilepsy, follow these tips from a mom whose daughter has epilepsy.

Stephen's Story
Teenager Stephen Moore talks about life with epilepsy, and what advice he would offer a newly diagnosed patient.

Contact Us

To schedule an appointment, please call the Neuroscience Institute at (888) 770-2462 and press 2 for specialty care clinics. Medical records and authorization to release information from the referring physician will be required prior to a new patient appointment.

Download our New Patient Packet: English | Spanish

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UC Irvine

CHOC Children's is affiliated with the UC Irvine School of Medicine