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J Pediatr. 2011 Nov;159(5):731-735.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2011.07.015. Epub 2011 Aug 11.

Seizures and magnetic resonance imaging-detected brain injury in newborns cooled for hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.

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Department of Neurology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA.



To describe the association between electrographically detected seizures and brain injury evaluated by magnetic resonance imaging in newborns treated with hypothermia.


A total of 56 newborns treated with hypothermia were monitored using video electroencephalography through cooling and rewarming, and then imaged at a median of 5 days. The electroencephalograms were reviewed for indications of seizure and status epilepticus. Moderate-severe injury detected on magnetic resonance imaging was measured using a classification scheme similar to one predicting abnormal outcome in an analogous population.


Seizures were recorded in 17 newborns (30%), 5 with status epilepticus. Moderate-severe injury was more common in newborns with seizures (relative risk, 2.9; 95% CI, 1.2-4.5; P=.02), and was present in all 5 newborns with status epilepticus. Newborns with moderate-severe injury had seizures that were multifocal and of later onset, and they were more likely to experience recurrent seizures after treatment with 20 mg/kg phenobarbital. Newborns with only subclinical seizures were as likely to have injury as those with seizures with a clinical correlate (57% vs 60%).


Seizures represent a risk factor for brain injury in the setting of therapeutic hypothermia, especially in neonates with status epilepticus, multifocal-onset seizures, and a need for multiple medications. However, 40% of our neonates were spared from brain injury, suggesting that the outcome after seizures is not uniformly poor in children treated with therapeutic hypothermia.

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