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J Child Neurol. 1991 Apr;6(2):101-8.

Neonatal seizures: diagnosis and treatment.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, PA.


Neonatal seizures are a frequent problem encountered in neonatal nurseries, but their significance is controversial. Some investigators regard newborn seizures as simply epiphenomena and reflective of brain injury, whereas others note associated metabolic and physiologic aberrations suggesting that seizures per se are injurious to the central nervous system. The proper approach to the treatment of neonatal seizures depends on the etiology because treatment differs if seizures are of metabolic, toxic, or structural origin. Most studies reporting the efficacy of anticonvulsant agents neither define the seizure characteristics being treated nor use electroencephalographic documentation of seizure activity. The choice of anticonvulsants has been based on tradition rather than on the proven superiority of one agent over another. Although several anticonvulsants are available, phenobarbital remains the drug most frequently chosen as the initial agent in treatment. The important pharmacologic considerations of anticonvulsants include route of administration, ability to achieve therapeutically efficacious and predictable plasma levels rapidly, drug distribution, the availability and affinity of receptor sites, protein-binding characteristics, effects on brain growth, and cardiovascular toxicities. At the present time, critical questions remain regarding the effects of both seizures and anticonvulsants on the developing central nervous system.

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