Does the absence or presence of sleep spindles on EEG have prognostic value for cognitive outcome in children with infantile epileptic spasms syndrome? A systematic literature review

Epileptic Disord. 2024 Feb;26(1):60-68. doi: 10.1002/epd2.20192. Epub 2024 Jan 18.


Infantile Epileptic Spasms Syndrome (IESS) is an epileptic encephalopathy in childhood that affects infants under the age of two years. When spasm series occur, prognosis for cognitive outcome is poor in the majority of cases. The encephalopathy in IESS includes delayed maturation of normal sleep phenomena in the EEG, such as sleep spindles. Children with intellectual disabilities often have abnormal sleep, and children with sleep problems have difficulties learning at school. We examined whether there is evidence of prognostic value of detection of sleep spindles in the EEG of children with IESS on their future cognitive development. A systematic literature search yielded five studies touching this question. They were evaluated by two scorers independently. The lack of normal sleep patterns including lack of sleep spindles was used as a biomarker of poor cognitive outcome. Positive (PPV) and Negative (NPV) prognostic values were calculated. A summary of all five studies indicates a PPV of 82% and an NPV of 45%. Given the small amount of data, the retrospective quality of most studies, and the differences in the outcome parameters reported, it is prudent to say that currently available data do not allow us to conclude whether spindles have a specific and independent role in the cognitive prognosis of affected children. Since sleep spindles are needed for memory consolidation and demonstrate the active role of sleep for learning and memory, the hypothesis remains that their absence in the EEG may indicate an increased risk of cognitive delay, but more supporting data are needed to reach such a firm conclusion.

Keywords: cognitive development; epileptic spasms; prognosis; sleep spindles.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sleep
  • Spasm
  • Spasms, Infantile* / diagnosis
  • Syndrome