How EEG is contributing to the diagnosis and treatment of children
This exciting Neuroelectrics adventure allows me to meet and spend time with admirable doctors in different areas that are pushing with their knowledge and experience what mankind once thought was science fiction.
One of the areas in which such improvement has been made is the pediatric field. Statistics show how a gigantic step has been made in the last 30 years : Child mortality rates for children under 5 years old have dropped from 17 million in 1970 to 7 milion in 2011!
The good news on mortality drop is now drifting the attention to the challenge of reducing on one side, the morbidity (babies surviving but with lasting complications) of the preterm babies (cerebral palsy, epilepsy, or behavioural, emotion and learning capabilities) as well as improving diagnostic and treatment of children with brain related pathologies.
EEG in chidren
EEG is a neurophysiologic technique primarily used in children in the evaluation of epilepsy disorders and has also proven to be of use in learning problems, attention disorders or development delay.
EEG can be used in children in two ways:
- As a diagnostic tool: EEG records the electrical activity of the brain. The EEG shows patterns of normal or abnormal brain activity. Some abmnormal patterns show not only that a kid is having a seizure or may have one (in the case of epilepsy, for example through rapid spiking waves) but also may indicate a head trauma, stroke, brain tumor (those usually by detection slow waves) sleep disorders and changes in behavior.
Research around the globe in also widening the amount of pathologies being diagnosed with EEG, such as autism.
One interesting field of work in EEG that can also help the diagnostic in children is the relationship between sleep disorders and several kinds of diseases. Children sleep deprived may be more likely to be depressed, sick or obese.
As example, in 2002 a study of 8,274 Japanese children aged 7 years old showed how fewer hours of sleep increased the risk of childhood obesity. This is with no doubt a very interesting field of research and of future EEG applications.
- As a treatment method: as mentioned in previous blog posts, EEG can be used a treatment of different pathologies such as ADHD (most commonly used). In fact a few weeks ago the American Academy of Pediatrics announced that they now consider neurofeedback for ADHD as being equally efficacious as medication, and having the best degree of empirical support.
Other interesting pathologies being treated with Neurofeedback are Anxiety or urine incontinency.
- As a support to other treatments: in a previous post, we talked about how meditation has shown to reduce pain threshold in different studies. EEG can be also used in this field as a complementary tool to train children going into different treatments such as chemotherapy.
Small patients and big opportunities
The above examples are only a grasp of the application of EEG in children in the current practice.
EEG is still has challenges to face to treat our small patients (such as easy of use, comfort, capability to monitor brain activity at home or need for expert interpretation of the data) but it is my believe that the use of EEG will be spread in the future in many different fields of pediatric practice.
Using John´s Lennon song, I would like to Imagine a future in which children´s brains are monitored in an easy way throughout their different growth states (ideally as easy and usual as monitoring their body temperature) so that the best diagnostics and treatments are applied at the right time. I am sure this will allow a new gigantic step into reducing morbidity and improving their health.
Our little patients’ brain rules their body and growth so we better take a close look ;-)
photo credit: Sergiu Bacioiu via photopin cc
photo credit: shannonrosa via photopin cc