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Neonatal seizures: early-onset seizure syndromes and their consequences for development

E M Mizrahi, R R Clancy
Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews 2000, 6 (4): 229-41
The determination of the developmental consequences of seizure syndromes in the neonate is based upon a number of factors which include: understanding of the clinical and electroencephalographic (EEG) features of neonatal seizures; current theories of the mechanisms by which neonatal seizures are generated; a current classification of neonatal seizures; potential etiologic and risk factors for seizures; and therapies. In addition, different seizure types, mechanisms of generation and etiologies of cerebral dysfunction may vary with conceptional age of the infant. There are a few distinct neonatal epileptic syndromes, which are rare, have been well described: benign neonatal convulsions; benign neonatal familial convulsions; early myoclonic encephalopathy and early infantile epileptic encephalopathy. The prognosis for the first two is relatively good while the outcome for the other two with encephalopathy is catastrophic. However, the majority of neonatal seizures occur as acute, reactive events in association with a wide range of etiologic factors. These etiologic factors, as well as those of the more traditionally defined syndromes, are the main determinants of eventual developmental outcome of neonates who experience seizures. Although experimental data suggests that some epileptic seizures eventually may have physiological, histological, metabolic, or behavioral consequences, there is yet direct evidence in humans to suggest that the occurrence of seizures themselves in the neonate is the main determinant of long-term outcome.

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