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Neonatal encephalopathy following fetal distress. A clinical and electroencephalographic study.

Twenty-one neonates of over 36 weeks' gestation suffered perinatal asphyxia but not chronic hypoxia. Three clinical stages of postanoxic encephalopathy were distinguished. Stage 1 lasted less than 24 hours and was characterized by hyperalertness, uninhibited Moro and stretch reflexes, sympathetic effects, and a normal electroencephalogram. Stage 2 was marked by obtundation, hypotonia, strong distal flexion, and multifocal seizures. The EEG showed a periodic pattern sometimes preceded by continuous delta activity. Infants in stage 3 were stuporous, flaccid, and brain stem and autonomic functions were suppressed. The EEG was isopotential or had infrequent periodic discharges. Infants who did not enter stage 3 and who had signs of stage 2 for less than five days appeared normal in later infancy. Persistence of stage 2 for more than seven days or failure of the EEG to revert to normal was associated with later neurologic impairment or death.

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