Seizures in the neonatal period are not uncommon, particularly with premature infants. While they can be caused by a number of different conditions, they signify abnormal electrical discharges in the newborn’s central nervous system. Seizures can be related to serious medical conditions and require urgent investigation, often by EEG (a test to identify abnormalities in the brain’s electrical activity).
In some instances, the existence of seizures can signify a brain injury caused during labour and delivery (often due to a hypoxic ischemic event, an inadequate supply of oxygen to the brain). In that situation, there may be other symptoms of encephalopathy (a disorder or disease of the brain) such as low Apgar scores, abnormal muscle tone and reflexes, and signs of multi-organ damage.
Other causes of neonatal seizures can include infection (such as meningitis or sepsis), bleeding in the brain, hypoglycemia or other metabolic disorder, or ischemic stroke (a stroke caused by a blockage of the blood flow through a blood vessel in the brain). It is critical that the underlying cause of seizures is determined in a timely manner.
Neonatal seizures can be subtle and difficult to recognize clinically, so EEG and laboratory testing are essential in confirming the diagnosis. Cranial imaging such as CT or MRI is also often recommended. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, early treatment of the seizures as well as the underlying cause is required.
The prognosis for infants with seizures will depend on the cause and the timeliness of diagnosis and treatment. It is essential that early investigation and treatment is undertaken by the appropriate medical specialists.
If your child has experienced neonatal seizures and has been diagnosed with a medical condition that could cause permanent disability or developmental delay, an experienced obstetrical lawyer will be in a position to investigate the possibility of a malpractice claim.