Incidence of early-onset epilepsy: A prospective population-based study

Seizure. 2020 Feb:75:49-54. doi: 10.1016/j.seizure.2019.12.020. Epub 2019 Dec 19.


Purpose: The first five years of life reflect a critical period of development prior to formal education yet few epidemiological studies focus on children with early-onset epilepsy (CWEOE; onset <60 months). This study aimed to determine early-onset epilepsy incidence using a comprehensive case identification strategy, and examined socioeconomic status (SES) and ethnicity as risk factors.

Methods: Through a prospective, population-based study, newly diagnosed CWEOE from Fife and Lothian, Scotland, were identified using multiple-source, active surveillance capture-recapture between May 2013 and June 2015. Crude, ascertainment-adjusted, age-adjusted, age- and gender-specific, and epilepsy-type incidence rates were determined. Risk ratios (RR) were calculated to examine SES and ethnicity as risk factors.

Results: 59 (36 Male) CWEOE were identified. Ascertainment was 98% (95% CI 94-103). Crude annual incidence of epilepsy in children 0-59 months was 60.2 (95% CI 44.8-75.5) per 100,000 per year; ascertainment-adjusted annual incidence was 61.7 (95% CI 46.2-77.3) per year. Cumulative incidence of West Syndrome/Infantile Spasms was 6.7 per 10,000 live births (95% CI 3.6-12.3). Aetiology was unknown in almost two-thirds of CWEOE. Compared to White-British Isles (BI) children, Asian children (RR 2.6 [95% CI 1.2-5.7], p = .02) and White-non-BI children (RR 2.5 [95% CI 1.2-5.2], p = .02) had increased risk. SES was not a risk factor.

Conclusion: The high incidence of early-onset epilepsy is similar to previous studies and demonstrates a substantial disease burden. Cause of epilepsy remains unknown in almost two thirds of CWEOE. Ethnicity but not SES affects early-onset epilepsy risk.

Keywords: Children; Epidemiology; Ethnicity; Infants; Socioeconomic status; West syndrome.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis*
  • Epilepsy / economics
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Population Surveillance* / methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Social Class