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Neonatal epilepsy syndromes

Renee Shellhaas, MD, MS
Section Editors
Douglas R Nordli, Jr, MD
Joseph A Garcia-Prats, MD
Deputy Editor
Janet L Wilterdink, MD


Identifying the etiology of seizures is a primary clinical objective in the management of neonatal seizures. Accurate determination of the cause can lead to etiology-specific therapy and may limit central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction that would otherwise occur if left untreated. In addition, etiology-specific therapy may be necessary to control the seizures themselves.

While there has been much discussion of the potential adverse effect of seizures on the immature brain, the overriding factor that affects long-term outcome is the etiology of the seizures and the degree and distribution of brain injury caused by the underlying disturbance.

Most neonatal seizures are due to acute symptomatic causes. However, there is increasing recognition of neonatal-onset epilepsy syndromes. This topic review will discuss recognized neonatal epilepsy syndromes. Acute symptomatic neonatal seizures are discussed separately. (See "Etiology and prognosis of neonatal seizures".)

The characterization of various types of neonatal seizures, with an emphasis upon clinical features and electrodiagnosis, is discussed elsewhere. Treatment is also discussed separately. (See "Clinical features, evaluation, and diagnosis of neonatal seizures" and "Treatment of neonatal seizures".)


Although the majority of neonatal seizures occur as acute reactive events in response to identifiable etiologic factors (table 1), additional rare but distinct neonatal epilepsy syndromes are well recognized. These include:

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 20, 2017.
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