This was a prospective open comparative pilot study to assess the efficacy and tolerability of first-line vigabatrin monotherapy in childhood partial epilepsies. Two groups of patients were recruited over the same period. The vigabatrin monotherapy group comprised 40 patients (18 male, 22 female; mean age at last visit 7.5 years); the comparative carbamazepine monotherapy group comprised 40 consecutive clinic patients (22 male, 18 female; mean age at last visit 7.8 years). Seizures disappeared in 82% of vigabatrin patients and in all carbamazepine patients with idiopathic partial epilepsy, and in 50% of vigabatrin patients and 55% of carbamazepine patients with symptomatic partial epilepsy. Interictal EEG abnormalities decreased in vigabatrin patients more than in carbamazepine patients (P < 0.05). Tolerability was good in vigabatrin patients, but four out of 37 showed mild irritability by the end of the trial. Persistent sedation was observed in eight of the 40 patients receiving carbamazepine. No patient had drug therapy discontinued because of side-effects. During vigabatrin long-term monotherapy, efficacy and good clinical tolerability were maintained. These results suggest that vigabatrin may be an alternative first-line treatment for childhood partial epilepsies. Further blinded comparative randomized trials are needed.