Seizure classification, etiology, and management

Handb Clin Neurol. 2019:162:347-361. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-64029-1.00017-5.


The first weeks of life are a time of heightened risk for seizures due to age-dependent physiologic features of the developing brain that lead to increased neuronal excitation and decreased inhibition. Usually, seizures in neonates are a symptom of an acute brain injury; seizures are only rarely due to neonatal-onset epilepsy syndromes. Neonatal seizures are harmful to the developing brain; early and accurate diagnosis is critical. For suspected seizures, EEG monitoring should be initiated as soon as is feasible, in order to evaluate for events of concern, screen for subclinical seizures, and assess the EEG background. Amplitude-integrated EEG can provide excellent complementary data, particularly with regard to evolution of background patterns, but has limited sensitivity to detect individual neonatal seizures. An urgent and systematic approach to precise etiologic diagnosis is key for optimal management and estimates of prognosis. Evaluation of the seizure etiology must occur in parallel with initiation of appropriate treatment. It is critical that neonatologists and neurologists develop hospital-specific, consensus-based practice pathways for neonatal seizure evaluation and treatment. Such practice pathways can streamline medical decision making, facilitate rapid medication administration, and potentially decrease seizure burden and optimize outcomes. Herein, the pathophysiology, epidemiology, treatment, and long-term management considerations for neonatal seizures are presented.

Keywords: EEG; Epilepsy; Phenobarbital; Seizure; Status epilepticus.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / classification
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / epidemiology
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Seizures / classification*
  • Seizures / congenital*
  • Seizures / epidemiology
  • Seizures / therapy