Benign Rolandic epilepsy is also called benign childhood epilepsy with centrotemporal spikes (BCECTS). It typically develops in children under 13, and the seizures often stop by puberty.

Seizures are bursts of electrical information in the brain that cause symptoms like a loss of consciousness, muscle jerking, and confusion. Epilepsy is the most common cause of seizures.

A pediatrician may diagnose your child with epilepsy if they experience two or more seizures that have no other known cause.

This type of epilepsy most commonly develops between the ages of 3 and 12 years. It’s called “benign” because most children outgrow it during adolescence.

The name “Rolandic” refers to the part of the brain where the seizures develop: the Rolandic area, or centrotemporal area. This part of your child’s brain controls their face, mouth, and throat.

Children with benign Rolandic epilepsy typically experience seizures shortly after they go to bed or before they wake up. The seizures tend to be infrequent and last less than 2 minutes.

Benign Rolandic epilepsy is the most common type of childhood epilepsy.

It affects about 10 to 20 children younger than 15 per 100,000 and makes up about 15% of childhood epilepsy cases.

The exact cause is unknown. It’s thought that genetics play a role in its development because about 25% of children with this condition have a family history of epilepsy or febrile seizures.

Researchers haven’t identified a specific gene involved, but areas on chromosome 11 are thought to contribute to the development of this condition.

Males develop this condition slightly more often than females. In a group of 25 children with benign Rolandic epilepsy, researchers would expect to find 10 females and 15 males.

The condition most commonly develops in children ages 6 to 8 years, but the seizures can start anywhere between the ages of 3 and 13.

Children with a family history of epilepsy are more likely to develop it than those without this history.

The symptoms of this condition can include:

Certain symptoms typically develop on one side of the body, sometimes spreading to both sides.

In some cases, the symptoms may also include:

Doctors first consider a child’s symptoms and examine their personal and family medical histories. They also use information from an electroencephalogram (EEG). An EEG is a machine that measures brain activity.

If the EEG reading shows spikes in the centrotemporal region of your child’s brain, it can indicate this health condition.

A doctor may also use MRI scans to examine your child’s brain, but an MRI is often not necessary if your child has the typical symptoms.

Usually, children with this condition have infrequent seizures that occur at night. Many children don’t need to take antiseizure drugs.

In general, the doctor may recommend antiseizure medication if your child has:

If they do recommend medication, the most common options are:

In a 2015 study, researchers found that 77.8 to 84.2% of children with benign Rolandic epilepsy responded to first-line medication.

These findings were consistent with the results of another 2015 study, in which researchers found that first-line medication successfully treated the condition in 72 out of 84 children.

It’s important to seek medical care when your child has their first seizure. Health conditions other than epilepsy — such as medication side effects and diabetes — can also cause seizures, and a doctor needs to rule these out.

Then, they can help develop the best treatment plan.

When to call 911

It’s critical to seek immediate medical attention if your child:

  • has a seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes
  • doesn’t wake up after their seizure
  • has repeated seizures
  • gets hurt during their seizure
  • has more than one seizure in 24 hours
  • has a seizure while in the water
  • has never had a seizure before

If you think your child is having a seizure, it’s important to stay calm. This can help keep your child from hurting themselves.

If your child is convulsing:

  • Don’t put anything in their mouth.
  • Don’t try to stop their movements.
  • Try to put them in a safe position, which might involve guiding them down to a soft surface.
  • Try to help them onto their side so drool runs out of their mouth.

If your child isn’t convulsing, you can stay with them while observing their behavior and timing their seizure.

Whether a child receives medication for the condition or not, the outlook is excellent.

The seizures stop by the age of 15 or 16 in about 95% of children. About 10 to 20% of children with the condition have only one seizure, and most have fewer than 10.

Some children with benign Rolandic epilepsy have behavioral or learning difficulties. These usually go away by adolescence, when their seizures pass.

Benign Rolandic epilepsy is the most common children’s epilepsy disorder. Other common types include:

Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy

Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy is the most common generalized epilepsy syndrome. Generalized means that it develops in a child’s whole brain. It typically causes seizures shortly after waking up.

Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy is considered a lifelong condition, while most children with benign Rolandic epilepsy stop having seizures by age 16.

Childhood absence epilepsy

Childhood absence epilepsy typically causes absence seizures.

This involves becoming unresponsive for about 10 to 20 seconds. The seizures typically disappear by late childhood or adolescence.

Gastaut-type childhood idiopathic occipital epilepsy

This typically develops in late childhood and causes seizures that start with blindness or visual hallucinations. The seizures are usually frequent and occur during the day.

About 90% of children with this type of epilepsy respond to the drug carbamazepine. The seizures go away within 2 to 4 years in more than half of those who have them.

Benign Rolandic epilepsy is the most common type of childhood epilepsy. Most children outgrow it by age 16. The seizures tend to occur just after the child goes to bed or before they wake up.

If you suspect that your child has had a seizure, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional. They can make a diagnosis and determine whether your child will benefit from taking antiseizure medication.