Management of Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood: A Review

Pediatr Neurol. 2020 Feb;103:12-20. doi: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2019.10.003. Epub 2019 Nov 1.


Alternating hemiplegia of childhood is a severe neurological disorder with infantile-onset recurrent episodes of hemiplegia on either side of the body and other paroxysmal events such as seizures, dystonia, tonic episodes, abnormal eye movements or autonomic dysfunction, primarily due to de novo pathogenic mutations in the ATP1A3 gene. The burden of neuromorbidities is significant and includes epilepsy; attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; behavioral difficulties; motor, cognitive, adaptive, and learning impairment; ataxia; movement disorders; and migraine. Comprehensive multispecialty clinic with the availability of various specialists with considerable experience in alternating hemiplegia of childhood is beneficial. A comprehensive treatment plan including strict maintenance of a diary about different paroxysmal events is helpful. Disease-modifying therapy of alternating hemiplegia of childhood does not exist, and several agents such as benzodiazepines, flunarizine, topiramate, ketogenic diet, triheptanoin, steroid, amantadine, memantine, aripiprazole, oral ATP, coenzyme Q, acetazolamide, dextromethorphan, and vagus nerve stimulator have been tried with various rates of success by aborting attacks or reducing the frequency or severity of paroxysmal spells. The apparent efficacy of flunarizine is based on its use in hundreds of patients, albeit in open-label experience, but most of the other agents' reports of efficacy were from single case reports or case series of only a handful of patients. Besides reviewing existing data about individual agent active against paroxysmal events, we also review the management principles for coexisting neurological issues. However, with rapid advancement in the understanding of molecular pathogenesis and network abnormality of this disease, the treatment paradigm of alternating hemiplegia of childhood may significantly alter over the next decade.

Keywords: ATP1A3; Alternating hemiplegia of childhood; Epilepsy; Flunarizine; Ketogenic diet; Topiramate.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / therapeutic use*
  • Diet, Ketogenic*
  • Flunarizine / therapeutic use*
  • Hemiplegia / diet therapy
  • Hemiplegia / drug therapy
  • Hemiplegia / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Topiramate / therapeutic use*


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Topiramate
  • Flunarizine

Supplementary concepts

  • Alternating hemiplegia of childhood