Untreated Infant Seizures Can Damage Brain and Disrupt Cognitive Development

  • Neonatal seizures, also known as neonatal convulsions, are epileptic fits occurring from birth to the end of the neonatal period of 4 weeks.
  • The first 1-2 days to the end of the first week of birth is the most vulnerable part of life for developing seizures when 80 per cent of cases occur.
  • The longer it takes to start the treatment, the damage to the brain becomes more irreversible.

India

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Chandigarh, February 23, 2021

Neonatal complications are one of the consequences in a high-risk pregnancy. It can cause complications after birth and in the early weeks, including seizures, in the baby. Doctors at Columbia Asia Hospital, Gurugram warn treating infant seizure in time is critical as any delay may affect the baby brain and disrupt cognitive development.

Neonatal seizures, also known as neonatal convulsions, are epileptic fits occurring from birth to the end of the neonatal period of 4 weeks. The first 1-2 days to the end of the first week of birth is the most vulnerable part of life for developing seizures when 80 per cent of cases occur.

“There are several reasons why an infant may develop seizure, though it is difficult to determine the exact cause. Some of the common reasons for seizure in infants are newborn illnesses such as lack of oxygen, infection, hemorrhage, etc.; abnormal in-utero brain development; genetic disorders; infections in the brain such as encephalitis or meningitis. Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy is the most common seizure type in infants, caused by lack of supply of oxygen or blood to the brain or a lack of oxygen in the blood, and happens within the first 72 hours of life.” says Dr. Sachin Jain, Sr Consultant -Pediatrician & Neonatologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, Palam Vihar Gurgaon.

Seizures can be short-lived events but may also signify serious malfunction of or damage to the immature brain. It is a neurological emergency that demands urgent diagnosis and management to prevent further damage to the infant brain. The general prevalence of neonatal seizure is about 3 per 1000 live births but in pre-term infants, it rises to 57-132 per 1000 live births.

“Speedy treatment of infant seizure in a well-equipped neonatal care unit (NICU) is critical for survival as well as quality of life of the baby as an adult. The longer it takes to start the treatment, the damage to the brain becomes more irreversible – it can cause medical conditions such as cerebral palsy and cause intellectual disabilities and developmental delays. The baby must be examined for structural abnormalities, abnormal background, or electrical activity in the brain; any chemical disorders or metabolic problems, or infection. Rarely, newborns may develop seizure due to a vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) deficiency – administering the medicine and monitoring through electroencephalogram (EEG) will help. The body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate of the baby must be stable to respond to treatment,” says Dr Sachin Jain.

Spot the signs of infant seizure:

  • Change in facial expression, breathing, and heart rate
  • Jerking or stiffening of a leg or an arm or the whole upper body
  • One or all the above occur while the child is both awake and asleep
  • Reduced responsiveness – the baby delays or does not respond to parents’ voices

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