Rationale: Over the past decade, there has been a proliferation of new therapies for the treatment of epilepsy. Faced with this growing list of options, clinicians must decide what therapy, or combination of therapies, is best for a given individual. Although controlled clinical trials exist for each treatment option, the answer to these questions may remain unclear. In 2000, a survey of expert opinion was done to address questions concerning which treatment options might be best in a number of clinical situations. We surveyed a group of US epileptologists again in 2004 and compared the results of the two surveys.
Methods: We sent a questionnaire on the treatment of adolescent and adult epilepsy syndromes to a group of opinion leaders in the field of epilepsy. The questions were formatted to simulate real-world clinical situations in the treatment of symptomatic localization related epilepsy (SLRE) and idiopathic generalized epilepsy (IGE). The experts were asked to rate treatment options based on a modified RAND 9-point scale (with "9" most appropriate and "1" least appropriate). Statistical analysis of data was performed as defined by the expert consensus method. The results were used to develop user-friendly recommendations concerning overall treatment strategies and choice of specific medications.
Results: Of the 48 experts to whom the survey was sent, 43 (90%) responded; 29 (67%) of the respondents had also participated in the first survey. For initial monotherapy for IGE (generalized tonic-clonic [GTC], absence, and myoclonic seizures), valproate was rated as treatment of choice. For IGE-GTC seizures, lamotrigine and topiramate were also identified as usually appropriate for initial monotherapy. For IGE-absence seizures, ethosuximide was also a treatment of choice, and lamotrigine was usually appropriate. For SLRE, the experts were again asked to rate treatment options based on seizure type: simple partial seizures (SPS), complex partial seizures (CPS), and secondarily generalized tonic-clonic seizures (SGTC). In SLRE-SPS and SLRE-SGTC, carbamazepine and oxcarbazepine were treatments of choice, with lamotrigine and levetiracetam also usually appropriate. In SLRE-CPS, carbamazepine, lamotrigine. and oxcarbazepine were treatments of choice, while levetiracetam was also usually appropriate. For women who are pregnant or trying to conceive, lamotrigine was treatment of choice for both syndrome types. In the elderly, whether medically stable or ill, the treatment of choice was lamotrigine, while levetiracetam was also usually appropriate (along with gabapentin for persons with comorbid medical illness). In persons with HIV and epilepsy, lamotrigine and levetiracetam were usually appropriate. In people with both epilepsy syndromes who have depression, lamotrigine was treatment of choice. In a person with seizures and renal disease, lamotrigine was usually appropriate for both syndromes, with valproate also usually appropriate for IGE. In patients with hepatic disease, levetiracetam and lamotrigine were usually appropriate for IGE; in SLRE, levetiracetam was treatment of choice, with gabapentin also usually appropriate.
Conclusions: Although the panel of experts reached consensus on many treatment options, there are limitations to these types of data. Despite this, the expert consensus method concisely summarizes expert opinion, and this opinion may be helpful in situations in which the medical literature is scant or lacking. The information in this report should be evaluated in conjunction with evidence-based findings.