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Han Yan, Eric Toyota, Melanie Anderson, Taylor J. Abel, Elizabeth Donner, Suneil K. Kalia, James Drake, James T. Rutka, and George M. Ibrahim


Drug-resistant epilepsy (DRE) presents a therapeutic challenge in children, necessitating the consideration of multiple treatment options. Although deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been studied in adults with DRE, little evidence is available to guide clinicians regarding the application of this potentially valuable tool in children. Here, the authors present the first systematic review aimed at understanding the safety and efficacy of DBS for DRE in pediatric populations, emphasizing patient selection, device placement and programming, and seizure outcomes.


The systematic review was conducted according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines and recommendations. Relevant articles were identified from 3 electronic databases (MEDLINE, Embase, and Cochrane CENTRAL) from their inception to November 17, 2017. Inclusion criteria of individual studies were 1) diagnosis of DRE; 2) treatment with DBS; 3) inclusion of at least 1 pediatric patient (age ≤ 18 years); and 4) patient-specific data. Exclusion criteria for the systematic review included 1) missing data for age, DBS target, or seizure freedom; 2) nonhuman subjects; and 3) editorials, abstracts, review articles, and dissertations.


This review identified 21 studies and 40 unique pediatric patients (ages 4–18 years) who received DBS treatment for epilepsy. There were 18 patients with electrodes placed in the bilateral or unilateral centromedian nucleus of the thalamus (CM) electrodes, 8 patients with bilateral anterior thalamic nucleus (ATN) electrodes, 5 patients with bilateral and unilateral hippocampal electrodes, 3 patients with bilateral subthalamic nucleus (STN) and 1 patient with unilateral STN electrodes, 2 patients with bilateral posteromedial hypothalamus electrodes, 2 patients with unilateral mammillothalamic tract electrodes, and 1 patient with caudal zona incerta electrode placement. Overall, 5 of the 40 (12.5%) patients had an International League Against Epilepsy class I (i.e., seizure-free) outcome, and 34 of the 40 (85%) patients had seizure reduction with DBS stimulation.


DBS is an alternative or adjuvant treatment for children with DRE. Prospective registries and future clinical trials are needed to identify the optimal DBS target, although favorable outcomes are reported with both CM and ATN in children.