Epilepsy in children with leukodystrophies

J Neurol. 2020 Sep;267(9):2612-2618. doi: 10.1007/s00415-020-09889-y. Epub 2020 May 9.


Background: Epilepsy might be one of the manifestations in children with leukodystrophies, but the incidence of epilepsy in different types of leukodystrophies is unclear yet.

Methods: A retrospective observational cohort study was performed on children diagnosed with leukodystrophies in Peking University First Hospital from January 2004 to June 2019, and the patients were followed for 5.5 years (0.4-14.2 years) after the first visit.

Results: A total of 333 patients were included. The overall incidence of epilepsy was 30.6% (102/333). Alexander disease had the highest incidence (77.3%, 51/66), followed by vanishing white matter disease (41.2%, 21/51), Canavan disease (33.3%, 1/3), megalencephalic leukoencephalopathy with subcortical cysts (32.1%, 9/28), X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (23.1%, 3/13), Krabbe disease (18.8%, 3/16), metachromatic leukodystrophy (14.3%, 6/42), and Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease (7.0%, 8/114). The incidence of epilepsy in leukodystrophies classified as astrocytopathies was higher than that in myelin disorders (55.9% vs. 11.2%, P < 0.001). Of the 102 patients with epilepsy, seizures were the chief complaint in 61.8% (63/102) and the initial symptom in 22.5% (23/102). The median age at seizure onset was 20.5 months (1 day-176 months). A total of 63.7% (65/102) of children were treated with antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), and the responder rate was 90.8% (59/65) at the last follow-up, including 71.2% (42/59) of children who were seizure free.

Conclusions: Epilepsy was not uncommon in children with leukodystrophies. Children with Alexander disease had the highest incidence; whereas, children with Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease had the lowest incidence. Children with leukodystrophies classified as astrocytopathies were more prone to have epilepsy than those classified as myelin disorders. Most children with leukodystrophies who presented with epilepsy showed a good response to antiepileptic drugs.

Keywords: Children; Epilepsy; Leukodystrophies.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adrenoleukodystrophy*
  • Child
  • Demyelinating Diseases*
  • Epilepsy* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Leukodystrophy, Metachromatic*
  • Retrospective Studies