Differential diagnosis of epileptic seizures in infancy including the neonatal period

Semin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2013 Aug;18(4):192-5. doi: 10.1016/j.siny.2013.04.003. Epub 2013 Apr 30.


It is important to accurately diagnose epileptic seizures in early life to optimise management and prognosis. Conversely, however, many different movements and behaviours may manifest in the neonatal period and infancy that may not have at their root cause a change in electrical activity of the brain. It is important to distinguish them from epileptic seizures to avoid over- and inappropriate treatment. Some are physiological in the normal infant, such as neonatal tremor, benign neonatal sleep myoclonus, and shuddering attacks, whereas others may herald alternative rare neurological diagnoses with differing prognoses such as hyperekplexia, paroxysmal extreme pain disorder and alternating hemiplegia of childhood. Here are highlighted the key clinical features that distinguish some of these disorders, their management and prognosis.

Keywords: Apnoea; Movements; Neonatal seizures; Tremor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis*
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Parasomnias / diagnosis
  • Prognosis
  • Seizures / etiology