The research interests of Katherine C. Nickels, M.D., involve identifying preferred evaluation and treatment of early-onset epilepsy syndromes, finding novel pharmacologic treatment of pediatric epilepsy, and studying long-term outcomes of pediatric epilepsy. Regarding diagnosis, treatment and outcome of pediatric epilepsy, Dr. Nickels' research experience includes multiple epidemiology studies using the Rochester Epidemiology Project.
Through the Pediatric Epilepsy Research Consortium (PERC), Dr. Nickels collaborates with pediatric epilepsy specialists throughout the United States to determine best practices and treatments for early-onset pediatric epilepsy encephalopathies. In these studies, particular attention is given to infantile spasms, commonly called West syndrome, and myoclonic atonic epilepsy, also known as Doose syndrome.
- Preferred treatment of early-onset epilepsy syndromes. Through collaborations with PERC pediatric epilepsy specialists, Dr. Nickels and her associates have been able to identify more-effective treatments for infantile spasms and epilepsy with myoclonic atonic seizures. These results have been accomplished using retrospective studies, prospective studies and modified Delphi methodology.
- Long-term outcomes of pediatric epilepsy. Dr. Nickels has worked with the Rochester Epidemiology Project to determine long-term outcomes of pediatric epilepsy. These include risk of seizure recurrence after anti-seizure medication withdrawal, as well as risk of morbidity and mortality due to epilepsy.
- Novel therapies. Dr. Nickels and her colleagues have participated in numerous pharmaceutical trials to identify new treatments for severe epilepsy syndrome, such as Dravet syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and West syndrome.
Significance to patient care
Epilepsy is the most common neurological disease in children. Unfortunately, a significant percentage of children do not respond to anti-seizure medications. Some rare pediatric epilepsy syndromes can impact development, and preferred treatments have not been identified. Through PERC collaborations, Dr. Nickels and her colleagues have been able to study rare diseases in large cohorts of affected children, making identification of more-effective treatments possible. Pharmaceutical studies also expand the number of possible treatments available to children with severe epilepsy syndromes. Finally, by studying a population-based cohort, Dr. Nickels and her colleagues can provide answers to families regarding the expected future outcomes of their children with epilepsy.
- Associate editor, Epilepsy Currents, 2022-present.
- Professional advisory board, Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota, 2011-present.
- Pediatric Epilepsy Research Consortium.
- Chair, 2021-2022.
- Steering committee, 2018-2022.