Ketogenic Diet for Refractory Childhood Epilepsy: Beyond Seizures Control, the Experience of a Portuguese Pediatric Centre

Inês Romão Luz, Cristina Pereira, Paula Garcia, Fátima Ferreira, Ana Faria, Cristiane Macedo, Luísa Diogo, Conceição Robalo


Introduction: Ketogenic diet is a low carbohydrate diet, which can be used as a treatment for refractory childhood epilepsy. The first aim of this study was to evaluate its efficacy, in patients receiving ketogenic diet for at least three months, on epilepsy control, behaviour and awareness. The secondary aims were to evaluate the variation in the number of antiepileptic drugs, reasons for discontinuing the diet and adverse effects.
Material and Methods: Retrospective analysis of clinical records of patients who underwent ketogenic diet for refractory epilepsy, from October 2007 to January 2018, in a tertiary pediatric hospital.
Results: In the twenty-nine eligible patients, the mean age of initiation was 7.9 years-old (+/– 5.6). Of those, 18 had a ≥ 50% reduction of seizure activity, 19 a marked behaviour improvement and 18 improved awareness. The median number of antiepileptic drugs remained equal for the 15 patients who completed 18 months of treatment (three drugs). The main reason for discontinuing ketogenic diet was a familiar decision. The main adverse effects were hypercholesterolemia (n = 23) and hypertriglyceridemia (n = 21).
Discussion: Results were comparable to those of other cohorts, namely age of initiation, proportion of patients completing ketogenic diet, most frequent reasons for stopping and significant improvement of alertness and behavior.
Conclusion: Beyond seizure control, patients experienced a marked improvement in behavior and awareness. It is necessary to develop strategies to increase the adherence of families to the diet.


Child; Diet, Ketogenic; Drug Resistant Epilepsy/diet therapy; Portugal

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