Neonatal Seizures Clinical Presentation

Updated: Jul 30, 2019
  • Author: Raj D Sheth, MD; Chief Editor: Stephen L Nelson, Jr, MD, PhD, FAACPDM, FAAN, FAAP, FANA  more...
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Infants with neonatal seizures are frequently lethargic between seizures and often appear ill. Findings of the neurologic examination between seizures may be normal. However, neurologic examination abnormalities may be seen correlating with a focal or generalized neurologic syndrome. The clinical history provides important clues to the likely etiology of neonatal seizures. [1]

Family history

A family history of neonatal convulsions may suggest that the infant has a genetic syndrome. Many of these syndromes are considered benign and frequently disappear within the neonatal period. In the absence of other etiologies, a family history of neonatal seizures may suggest a good prognosis. [10]

Pregnancy history

A detailed pregnancy history is important. Search for a history that supports TORCH (toxoplasmosis, rubella, cytomegalovirus, herpes) infections. The presence of kittens may suggest toxoplasmosis as an etiology. A history of fetal distress, preeclampsia, or maternal infection also can provide etiologic clues.

Delivery history

Delivery history is also important. The type of delivery and the antecedent events should be documented. Apgar scores may offer some guidance concerning etiology, although a low Apgar score without the need for resuscitation and subsequent neonatal intensive care is unlikely to be associated with neonatal seizures.

Postnatal history

The postnatal history is also significant. Neonatal seizures in infants with an uneventful antenatal history and delivery may result from a postnatal cause. A history of tremulousness may suggest drug withdrawal or neonatal hypocalcemia. Temperature and/or blood pressure instability may suggest an infection; a sepsis workup may be required.

A history of rubella or the absence of immunization against rubella may offer a diagnostic clue. In the United States, rubella immunization typically is given during the toddler years to both sexes and the degree of immunity is high. In countries where only teenage girls are immunized for rubella, neonatal seizures resulting from central nervous system (CNS) rubella involvement is a greater threat.