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Caregiver-Reported Religious Beliefs and Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use among Children Admitted to an Epilepsy Monitoring Unit

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) includes a wide range of practices and products that are generally outside the use of conventional medicine as practiced in Western cultures. Use of CAM in persons with epilepsy is high, even compared to individuals with other chronic health conditions. In this study, we surveyed caregivers of children admitted to a regional epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU) in the southeast United States to assess CAM use among patients (N = 225). Thirteen percent of respondents indicated current use of CAM by their child, 16% reported past use, and 43% reported interest in future use, most commonly in marijuana as a potential treatment (23%). Over 25% of respondents expressed interest in CAM use related to side effects of anti-epileptic medications. Regarding prayer as a form of CAM, a large majority of respondents in this sample identified as Christian and actively prayed for their child's illness, revealing a high prevalence of spiritual practices in this population. Eighty-one percent of respondents reported that they had not discussed CAM use with their doctor. Discussing CAM use with a health care provider was significantly related to past CAM use (p < .02), but not current use or willingness to try CAM in the future (p > .05). These results have important implications for future practice and support increased communication and patient education, as many anti-epileptic medications interact with certain herbs and supplements, posing a potential health risk and treatment barrier in this population. Read more here.