Infantile Spasms: Outcome in Clinical Studies

Pediatr Neurol. 2020 Jul:108:54-64. doi: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2020.01.015. Epub 2020 Feb 4.


Children with infantile spasms are likely to have a poor outcome. Outcome measures for infantile spasms include primary response to treatment, relapse of spasms, neurological development, death, and progression to another type of epilepsy (Consensus Statements of the WEST Delphi Group 2004). This review is based mainly on prospective studies and emphasizes data about the current first-line drugs, adrenocorticotropic hormone, vigabatrin, and prednisolone, taking into account the proportion of patients with known and unknown etiology, which has a very strong effect on seizure outcome. In most studies, hormonal treatment (adrenocorticotropic hormone or prednisolone) is the optimal monotherapy, except for patients with tuberous sclerosis complex, in whom vigabatrin appears superior. Combination therapy (hormones plus vigabatrin) may well be more effective than either agent alone. The underlying etiology is the most important prognostic factor. In studies with a long follow-up (up to 50 years), a favorable cognitive outcome has been observed in approximately one quarter of patients and complete seizure freedom in one-third. Autism is relatively frequent, and premature mortality is high throughout life. Modifiable prognostic factors include early recognition of the spasms with prompt treatment, short duration of hypsarrhythmia, prompt treatment of relapses of spasms and multifocal epileptic discharges, and early treatment of adverse effects. It is hoped that eventually advanced genetics and molecular data will allow an understanding of the pathogenetic mechanisms of many specific etiologies to allow disease-specific treatment such as is emerging for tuberous sclerosis.

Keywords: Factors influencing outcome; Infantile spasms; Long-term outcome; Short-term outcome; Steroids; Vigabatrin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / pharmacology*
  • Adult
  • Anticonvulsants / pharmacology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Spasms, Infantile / diagnosis
  • Spasms, Infantile / drug therapy*
  • Vigabatrin / pharmacology*
  • Young Adult


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Vigabatrin