Developmental and epileptic encephalopathies: recognition and approaches to care

Epileptic Disord. 2021 Feb 1;23(1):40-52. doi: 10.1684/epd.2021.1244.


The term "developmental and epileptic encephalopathy" (DEE) refers to when cognitive functions are influenced by both seizure and interictal epileptiform activity and the neurobiological process behind the epilepsy. Many DEEs are related to gene variants and the onset is typically during early childhood. In this setting, neurocognition, whilst not improved by seizure control, may benefit from some precision therapies. In patients with non-progressive diseases with cognitive impairment and co-existing epilepsy, in whom the epileptiform activity does not affect or has minimal effect on function, the term "developmental encephalopathy" (DE) can be used. In contrast, for those patients with direct impact on cognition due to epileptic or epileptiform activity, the term "epileptic encephalopathy" (EE) is preferred, as most can revert to their normal or near normal baseline cognitive state with appropriate intervention. These children need aggressive treatment. Clinicians must tailor care towards individual needs and realistic expectations for each affected person; those with DE are unlikely to gain from aggressive antiseizure medication whilst those with EE will gain. Patients with DEE might benefit from a precision medicine approach in order to reduce the overall burden of epilepsy.

Keywords: care; developmental and epileptic encephalopathy (DEE); epileptic encephalopathy (EE); therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Epileptic Syndromes* / diagnosis
  • Epileptic Syndromes* / epidemiology
  • Epileptic Syndromes* / etiology
  • Epileptic Syndromes* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Neurocognitive Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Neurocognitive Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Neurocognitive Disorders* / etiology
  • Neurocognitive Disorders* / therapy
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders* / etiology
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders* / therapy