There are many types of health care providers who treat people with epilepsy. Primary care providers such as pediatricians and nurse practitioners are often the first people to see a child or youth with epilepsy who has new seizures. The primary care providers may make the diagnosis of epilepsy, or they may work with a neurologist or epileptologist, a doctor who specializes in treating neurologic disorders including seizures.
- Pediatrician – According to the AAP policy statement Definition of a Pediatrician, a pediatrician is a physician who is concerned primarily with the health, welfare and development of children and is uniquely qualified for these endeavors by virtue of interest and initial training. If a child or adolescent with epilepsy is referred to a physician who specializes in epilepsy or brain disorders, it is still important to coordinate care with the child’s pediatrician.
- Neurologist – A neurologist is a physician who specializes in conditions that affect the brain and nervous system. A child neurologist, or pediatric neurologist, is a physician who treats children who have problems with their nervous system. Problems in the nervous system can start in the brain, spine, nerves or muscles. These can lead to problems such as seizures, headaches or developmental delays.
- Epileptologist – An epileptologist is a physician who has trained in neurology (disorders of the brain and nervous system) and has additional training in diagnosing and treating people with epilepsy. An epileptologist has special expertise in treating people with anti-seizure medications, interpreting electroencephalography (EEG) testing, evaluating people for epilepsy surgery and providing people with education and support regarding their epilepsy.
- Epilepsy Nurse Specialist – An epilepsy nurse is a nurse who cares for people living with epilepsy and their families. Epilepsy nurses provide medical care, education and support for people with epilepsy.
- Neurosurgeon – A neurosurgeon is a surgeon who specializes in treating disorders of the brain and spinal cord. An epilepsy surgeon is a neurosurgeon who specializes in treating people with epilepsy.
- Neuroradiologist – A neuroradiologist is a physician trained in radiology who specializes in interpreting pictures of the brain and spinal cord such computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
- Neuropsychologists – A neuropsychologist is a psychologist who specializes in understanding the relationship between the physical brain and an individual’s behavior, cognition, memory and attention. This type of medical professional often assists in doing specialized evaluations of children’s cognitive function before considering epilepsy surgery.
- Neuropsychiatrist – A neuropsychiatrist specializes in treating people with neurological and psychiatric disorders. These specialty care providers can help identify and treat changes in behavior or mood that may be due to epilepsy, medicines or other mental health problems.
- Nurse Practitioner – A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse with advanced training in treating many medical conditions.
- Clinical Psychologist or Psychiatrist – Clinical psychologist or psychiatrist is a specialist who can help with mood and learning disorders that are common in children and youth with epilepsy.
For more details, check out these helpful resources:
- American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement: Referral to Pediatric Surgical Specialists
- American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement: Definition of a Pediatrician
- AAP Publications Pediatric Patient Education: What is a Child Neurologist?
- AAP Publications Pediatrics in Review: Seizures in Children
- Healthy Children: What is a Child Neurologist?
American Academy of Pediatrics