Objective: We evaluated the incidence of seizures and epilepsy in the first decade of life among children born extremely premature (less than 28 weeks' gestation).
Method: In a prospective, multicenter, observational study, 889 of 966 eligible children born in 2002 to 2004 were evaluated at two and ten years for neurological morbidity. Complementing questionnaire data to determine a history of seizures, all caregivers were interviewed retrospectively for postneonatal seizures using a validated seizure screen followed by a structured clinical interview by a pediatric epileptologist. A second pediatric epileptologist established an independent diagnosis based on recorded responses of the interview. A third epileptologist determined the final diagnosis when evaluators disagreed (3%). Life table survival methods were used to estimate seizure incidence through ten years.
Results: By age ten years, 12.2% (95% confidence interval: 9.8, 14.5) of children had experienced one or more seizures, 7.6% (95% confidence interval: 5.7, 9.5) had epilepsy, 3.2% had seizure with fever, and 1.3% had a single, unprovoked seizure. The seizure incidence increased with decreasing gestational age. In more than 75% of children with seizures, onset was after one year of age. Seizure incidence was comparable in both sexes. Two-thirds of those with epilepsy had other neurological disorders. One third of children with epilepsy were not recorded on the medical history questionnaire.
Significance: The incidence of epilepsy through age ten years among children born extremely premature is approximately 7- to 14-fold higher than the 0.5% to 1% lifetime incidence reported in the general pediatric population. Seizures in this population are under-recognized, and possibly underdiagnosed, by parents and providers.
Keywords: epilepsy; extreme prematurity; low gestational age; newborn; rate; risk; seizure incidence.
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