Incidence, prevalence and aetiology of seizures and epilepsy in children

Epileptic Disord. 2015 Jun;17(2):117-23. doi: 10.1684/epd.2015.0736.


Aim: To (1) summarize published, peer-reviewed literature about the incidence and prevalence of epilepsy in children from developed and developing countries around the world, and (2) discuss problems in defining aetiologies of epilepsy in children, and distinguish between seizures and epilepsy.

Methods: Review of selected literature with particular attention to systematic reviews.

Results: The incidence of epilepsy in children ranges from 41-187/100,000. Higher incidence is reported from underdeveloped countries, particularly from rural areas. The incidence is consistently reported to be highest in the first year of life and declines to adult levels by the end of the first decade. The prevalence of epilepsy in children is consistently higher than the incidence and ranges from 3.2-5.5/1,000 in developed countries and 3.6-44/1,000 in underdeveloped countries. Prevalence also seems highest in rural areas. The incidence and prevalence of specific seizure types and epilepsy syndromes is less well documented. In population-based studies, there is a slight, but consistent, predominance of focal seizures compared with generalized seizures. Only about one third of children with epilepsy can be assigned to a specific epilepsy syndrome, as defined by the most recently proposed system for organization of epilepsy syndromes.

Conclusions: The incidence and prevalence of epilepsy in children appears to be lower in developed countries and highest in rural areas of underdeveloped countries. The reasons for these trends are not well established. Although focal seizures predominate, the incidence and prevalence of specific epilepsy syndromes is not well documented.

Keywords: children; epilepsy; incidence; prevalence.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology*
  • Epilepsy / etiology
  • Humans