San Antonio, December 5 – Seizures that occur in the first few weeks of life are a major predictor of future adverse neurological outcomes. Currently approved antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) are effective in stopping seizures in fewer than 50 percent of these neonatal cases. The approved therapies can also have undesirable side effects.
In retrospective research reported today at the 64th American Epilepsy Society annual meeting, all newborns in a study who received IV levetiracetam for their seizures had achieved acute seizure freedom within 72 hours of being treated. Improvement both in brain wave activity and in clinically observable behavior was seen in 86 percent of newborns in the study within an hour after the initial dosing.
Researchers at Scott & White Hospital / Texas A & M Health Science Center in Temple, Texas, reviewed the charts of all term neonates treated between January 2007 and December 2009. No seizures were recorded while on levetiracetam in 32 percent of the neonates after the initial dosing. Acute seizure freedom was seen in 64 percent within 24 hours, rising to 86 percent at 48 hours, and 100 percent at 72 hours.
All of the newborns were switched to oral levetiracetam and, of those, 81 percent were discharged home on levetiracetam monotherapy. No major immediate adverse side effects were reported during the follow-up of two to six months.
Results of this study are based on a small sample and need to be confirmed by additional research. It could take years before the treatment is available in the mainstream, however the results are promising. For the future, thousands of babies might be saved from a life with epilepsy and/or other neurological deficits.
About neonatal seizures
Neonatal seizures affect an estimated one in four out of 1,000 live births in North America. The cause may be metabolic or due to brain hemorrhage, infection or structural abnormality. More than half of infants who experience seizures as newborns will go on to develop epilepsy at a later age.