The cognitive complaints reported by children and their parents, as subjectively associated with antiepileptic drug (AED) treatment, were evaluated in seizure-free children before and after drug discontinuation. The aim of the design was to isolate the cognitive side effects of AEDs from other factors, such as the effect of seizures. Our inventory explored the following areas: "alertness," "concentration," "activation/tiredness," "memory," "drowsiness," "depression," "aggressiveness," and "hyperactivity," using a 5-point Likert scaling procedure. One hundred two eligible patients were selected, each matched with a healthy control and assessed when still on antiepileptic medication. All children were seizure free for at least 1 year. The medication was then discontinued gradually over a 3-month period. Four months after the children were completely medication free, a second assessment was carried out, but only in the 83 children who remained seizure free and in their matched controls.
The results of the reports made by the children themselves did not show differences with the matched controls, and only showed improvement after drug discontinuation for complaints about "tiredness." Parents of the children with epilepsy reported significant improvement in all areas related to "alertness and activation" after discontinuation of the drugs.
The finding that only a limited number of children have cognitive complaints, both when still on AEDs and after discontinuation, may be in line with the reports that the major factor contributing to quality of life is whether patients are seizure free or still have seizures. All patients in this study were seizure free for a period >1 year, which may have caused the favorable pattern of response in our patient group.