Objective: The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-protein, low-carbohydrate diet developed in the 1920s for the treatment of children with difficult to control seizures. Despite advances in both the pharmacotherapy and the surgery of epilepsy, many children continue to have difficult-to-control seizures. This prospective study sought to determine the ketogenic diet's effectiveness and tolerability in children refractory to today's medications.
Methods: One hundred fifty consecutive children, ages 1 to 16 years, virtually all of whom continued to have more than two seizures per week despite adequate therapy with at least two anticonvulsant medications, were prospectively enrolled in this study, treated with the ketogenic diet, and followed for a minimum of 1 year. Seizure frequency was tabulated from patients' daily seizure calendars and seizure reduction calculated as percentage of baseline frequency. Adverse events and reasons for diet discontinuation were recorded.
Results: The children (mean age, 5.3 years), averaged 410 seizures per month before the diet, despite an exposure to a mean of 6.2 antiepileptic medications. Three months after diet initiation, 83% of those starting remained on the diet and 34% had >90% decrease in seizures. At 6 months, 71% still remained on the diet and 32% had a >90% decrease in seizures. At 1 year, 55% remained on the diet and 27% had a >90% decrease in seizure frequency. Most of those discontinuing the diet did so because it was either insufficiently effective or too restrictive. Seven percent stopped because of intercurrent illness.
Conclusions: The ketogenic diet should be considered as alternative therapy for children with difficult-to-control seizures. It is more effective than many of the new anticonvulsant medications and is well tolerated by children and families when it is effective.