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Epilepsia. 2017 Nov;58(11):1902-1911. doi: 10.1111/epi.13914. Epub 2017 Sep 29.

Reduced infancy and childhood epilepsy following hypothermia-treated neonatal encephalopathy.

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Neonatal Neuroscience, Translational Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom.
Division of Physiology, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.



To investigate what proportion of a regional cohort of cooled infants with neonatal encephalopathy develop epilepsy (determined by the International League Against Epilepsy [ILAE] definition and the number of antiepileptic drugs [AEDs]) up to 8 years of age.


From 2006-2013, 151 infants with perinatal asphyxia underwent 72 h cooling. Clinical and amplitude-integrated electroencepalography (aEEG) with single-channel EEG-verified neonatal seizures were treated with AEDs. Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was assessed using a 0-11 severity score. Postneonatal seizures, epilepsy rates, and AED treatments were documented. One hundred thirty-four survivors were assessed at 18-24 months; adverse outcome was defined as death or Bayley III composite Cognition/Language or Motor scores <85 and/or severe cerebral palsy or severely reduced vision/hearing. Epilepsy rates in 103 children age 4-8 years were also documented.


aEEG confirmed seizures occurred precooling in 77 (57%) 151 of neonates; 48% had seizures during and/or after cooling and received AEDs. Only one infant was discharged on AEDs. At 18-24 months, one third of infants had an adverse outcome including 11% mortality. At 2 years, 8 (6%) infants had an epilepsy diagnosis (ILAE definition), of whom 3 (2%) received AEDs. Of the 103 4- to 8-year-olds, 14 (13%) had developed epilepsy, with 7 (7%) receiving AEDs. Infants/children on AEDs had higher MRI scores than those not on AEDs (median [interquartile range] 9 [8-11] vs. 2 [0-4]) and poorer outcomes. Nine (64%) of 14 children with epilepsy had cerebral palsy compared to 13 (11%) of 120 without epilepsy, and 10 (71%) of 14 children with epilepsy had adverse outcomes versus 23 (19%) of 120 survivors without epilepsy. The number of different AEDs given to control neonatal seizures, aEEG severity precooling, and MRI scores predicted childhood epilepsy.


We report, in a regional cohort of infants cooled for perinatal asphyxia, 6% with epilepsy at 2 years (2% on AEDs) increasing to 13% (7% on AEDs) at early school age. These AED rates are much lower than those reported in the cooling trials, even with adjusting for our cohort's milder asphyxia. Long-term follow-up is needed to document final epilepsy rates.


Antiepileptic drug; Childhood; Epilepsy; Hypothermia; Hypoxia-ischemia; Infancy; International League Against Epilepsy; Newborn; Seizure

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