Neonatal hyperbilirubinemia and the risk of febrile seizures and childhood epilepsy

Epilepsy Res. 2016 Aug;124:67-72. doi: 10.1016/j.eplepsyres.2016.05.004. Epub 2016 May 19.


Purpose: The aim of the study was to estimate the association between newborn children treated with phototerapy for hyperbilirubinemia and the subsequent risk of febrile seizures or epilepsy in early childhood.

Methods: We conducted a follow-up study of singleton children (N=70 230) born between February 1998 and May 2003 from the Danish National Birth Cohort (DNBC). Information on exposure to phototherapy for hyperbilirubinemia was obtained from a questionnaire in the DNBC. Information on epilepsy and febrile seizures were obtained from the Danish National Hospital Registry (DNHR). Cox proportional hazard regression model was used to calculate hazard ratios (HRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CI).

Results: Newborns treated with phototherapy for hyperbilirubinemia had a higher risk of developing epilepsy in early childhood (HR: 1.66, 95% CI: 1.23-2.24) but not febrile seizures (HR: 1.04, 95% CI: 0.86-1.27). The increases risk of epilepsy were only present for boys (HR: 1.98, 95% CI: 1.40-2.78) not for girls (HR: 1.14, 95% CI: 0.64-2.02) CONCLUSION: Phototherapy for hyperbilirubinemia in newborns was associated with an increased risk of epilepsy for males in early childhood. No excess risk was seen with febrile seizures.

Keywords: Epilepsy; Febrile seizure; Hyperbilirubinemia; Jaundice; Neonatal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child, Preschool
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hyperbilirubinemia, Neonatal / epidemiology*
  • Hyperbilirubinemia, Neonatal / therapy*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Phototherapy*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Registries
  • Risk Factors
  • Seizures, Febrile / epidemiology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires