Can Infant Seizures Cause Brain Damage or Other Long Term Effects?

A seizure is a sudden disruption of the brain’s normal electrical activity. The abnormal electrical activity is accompanied by altered consciousness and/or other neurological and behavioral manifestations. Seizure activity can be located in one part of the brain (focal or partial seizures), or may occur on both sides (generalized seizures).

Infant Seizures and Birth Injury

The Dangers of Undiagnosed, Uncontrolled Infant Seizures

Seizure activity in an infant must be diagnosed and treated immediately because seizures can cause nerve cell injury and kill brain cells. Seizures may also adversely alter brain function in other ways like rewiring brain circuitry. The longer a seizure lasts, the more damage it does to the brain. The factors that influence how much brain damage a seizure will cause include:

  • The cause of the seizure
  • Seizure severity
  • How much electrographic seizure activity is present
  • The degree of brain involvement
  • The duration of the seizure

Thus, the longer the seizure activity is left undiagnosed and untreated, the greater the potential for permanent damage to the baby. Brain damage caused by seizures is associated with declines in cognitive function, and newborn babies that experience seizures often are also afflicted with cerebral palsy and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Seizures Have Many Possible Causes

When a baby shows signs of seizure activity, physicians should immediately evaluate the cause of the seizure and implement therapeutic interventions to treat the root cause of the seizures and to prevent further episodes and brain damage. In addition to treating the underlying cause, the seizure itself typically requires emergent therapy since it can adversely affect the baby’s stability. Antiepileptic drugs can be used to treat neonatal seizures.

The most common cause of a neonatal seizure is hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), or birth asphyxia. This is a serious condition where a newborn is deprived of oxygen at or around the time of birth. Treatment of HIE includes prompt resuscitation (intervention after the baby is born to help the baby’s breathing and heart activity) and prevention of hyperthermia (elevated body temperature) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Sometimes the baby may need to be placed on a ventilator to help with breathing.

Hypothermia (brain cooling) treatments have been shown to significantly improve outcomes of babies with HIE by reducing the severity of neurological injury. Since neurological injury can cause seizures, brain cooling treatments directly reduces the likelihood of seizures. The key to good outcomes is rapid HIE diagnosis so that brain cooling can begin within the first few hours of life.

Other causes of and risk factors for neonatal seizures include the following:

    • Trauma to the baby’s brain during delivery
  • Metabolic problems, such as hypoglycemia, hypocalcemia and hypomagnesemia

The combined presence of a low Apgar score (< 5 at five minutes), acidosis (pH < 7.0), and the baby having to be intubated and placed on a ventilator should alert physicians that seizure activity is likely to have occurred or will occur. Research shows that these factors have an 80% positive predictive value for clinical seizures.

If a baby has risk factors for seizures or is suspected to have seizure activity, it is critical that the physician closely monitor the baby. An EEG will likely be performed to determine if seizure activity is happening in the brain. In addition, an MRI or CT scan may be done to determine the cause of the seizures.

Failing To Diagnose Or Treat A Seizure Disorder Is Negligence

If a physician fails to pay attention to signs that a baby is having or is likely to have seizure activity, and seizures go untreated, it is negligence. If the negligence results in injury to the baby, it is medical malpractice.

If your child has a seizure disorder–with or without other neurological problems– the birth injury attorneys at ABC Law Centers (Reiter & Walsh, P.C.) can review your child’s medical records to determine whether negligence played a role in your child’s seizures. We have an exclusive focus on birth injury, providing us with the knowledge and professional experience to determine whether there was an error or negligence, and help you obtain the monetary compensation your child deserves. Contact ABC Law Centers at 888-419-2229.

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25 replies
  1. Ajeeb Nasser says:

    My first baby is 46 days old, deliverd at about 39 weeks and 3 days, vaginal delivery after artificial induction.
    After delivery she was 2.1 KG.
    Before delivery, the obstetrician adviced for delivery as the fetus is not gaining weight and the amniotic fluid is decreasing.
    In her 2nd day of life we have noticed the 1st attack of sufocation that ended with lips cyanosis. after that I took her to the Hospital and admitted her to the ICU for monitoring; they did not notice any attack and treated her by phototherapy for the jaundice and discharged her after about 40 hours.
    after that I noticed another attack of sufocation ended with cyanosis. we visted a doctor who noticed subtle seizure (I am not sure about his diagnosis) and advised me to visit a neurologist.
    We did for her Brain MRI(showed normal findings), neatal screening for the amino acids (all are within normal readings) and EEG 2 times that showed some electrical activities (the neurologist said it could be normal and not confirmed for the diagnosis of subtle seizure. some doctores one doctor advised to start the treatment and another said to wait and see.
    Now we are not noticing any cyanosis attacks but what I am noticing are some attacks of looks like colic (i am not sure about).
    Actually, I am really worried about her if she is really suffering from seizure and I am totally confused about the diagnosis.

    what do you advise me?
    waiting your replay.
    thank you in advance.
    FYI, I am a general practitioner.

  2. Reiter & Walsh Staff says:

    Thank you for your comment Ajeeb. You’ve been contacted by a member from the Reiter & Walsh, PC team. Please let us know if you have additional questions.

  3. vas says:

    frds please advice my 6 weeks old baby having below jerks while waking up from sleep ,please advice is this is seizure or just jerks.
    this happening continuously from past 3 days(she is has done at least 6 times in a day),this jerks lasting less than 15 to 20 seconds on their own itself ,also while doing jerks if touch the baby that time also they were stopped.
    we did cranial ultrasound and EEG both come out normal

  4. Aileen Valderama says:

    Hi, need some advise. my baby was diagnosed to have an epileptic seizure since 3weeks old until now she’s 9months and turning 10mos nextweek. She’s been under valproic and changed to keppra since her seizure is still uncontrollable. Now, zonegran was combined with keppra but still having a seizure everyday. Any inputs please, who has with same concern? I’m so worried about her future. She already has developmental delays..still can’t sit by her own.. won’t grab things. Won’t play peek-a-boo and still with head lag..

  5. gita says:

    my baby got first febrile seizures when he was 17 months(1st) old and again in this month i.e. 9th dec 2017 when he is 19 months old. doctors are saying that it is because of high fever… so no need to go for any MIR test or any test. please tell me the correct ways of preventing it.

  6. Reiter & Walsh, P.C. says:

    Hello, Gita, and thank you for contacting Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers. We’re sorry to hear about your child’s seizures. One of our firm’s team members will be reaching out to you via email.

  7. jemma wade says:

    Hi my 6 week old son has been having seizures since he was born he has them all through the day and night on and off, his breathing changes his eyes roll his body stiffens etc so I videoed it and took it to the doctor who advised me to go to the hospital, there I saw a epilepsy consultant who watched the video and put my son under his clinic but we’ve had to wait weeks just for that appointment and still have another 3 weeks till he has his eeg. Because he’s having them on and off all day and night and it’s going untreated can that cause other problems with my sons brain?

  8. Reiter & Walsh, P.C. says:

    Dear Ms. Wade,

    Thank you for contacting the ABC Law Centers team about your son’s seizures. A member from our team will reach out to assist you shortly.

    Kind regards,
    Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers

  9. Judy Talbot-Paul says:

    My grandson when he was born he was white as a sheet with no blood which caused him to have seizures and left side brain damage and the doctors said he would be paralyzed from the neck down. During his early child hood days everything was going fine until his school days at the aged of 11 he started to get these epileptic seizures regularly this was just about the time for him to do exams to enter high school so we had to take him out because his friends at school started to treat him with scorn. That was 5 years ago to date. He is sixteen year now and last week he had a major one lasted a long time with vomiting. He is on three types of medication (5 tables twice a day) I think he wants to feel that he is normal and do not need to take his medication so he skipped 5 day. Can you help me to understand if there is any other help/treatment that we can try to assist him with.

  10. Reiter & Walsh, P.C. says:

    Dear Judy,

    Thank you for contacting Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers regarding your grandson’s condition. A member of our team will reach out to assist you shortly.

    Kind regards,
    The ABC Law Centers Team

  11. Maria d says:

    My daughter also
    Had fever related seizures when she was an infant. Also I think she was having non fever related seizures. It kind of looked like she was being shocked out of no place. When I told my doctor she said babies make
    Funny faces. But this was involuntary.
    They never told me once that seizures
    Could cause brain damage. And kind of dismissed her even having them even though once we went in an abulance to the hospital because she was seizing in Walgreens.
    My daughter has Autism now.

  12. Reiter & Walsh, P.C. says:

    Dear Maria,

    Thank you for leaving a comment on, and we’re sorry to hear about your daughter’s seizures. A member from our team will be reaching out shortly to better assist you.

    Warm regards,
    Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers

  13. Kelvin Odafe Onofomi says:

    My son had seizure when he was 9 months old, and another one at 18months, he’s 2 years 7 months now and still can’t speak, is it possible that the seizure affected his speach? I was told that the cause of seizure was due to high temperatures. I seriously need reply as I am worried .

  14. Michael Awotoruvie says:

    My Wife’s Sister had a baby recently. Shortly after birth, the baby was having convulsion, this lasted a while before the treatment became effective, but shortly after the convulsion stopped, she began to have seizures. She has been taken to the hospital and the latest report we’re getting is that her brain is damaged. Please is there any chance that she gets out of this, if there is, kindly give your recommendations. Thanks

  15. Sujay says:

    My son went to hypoglycaemia and recovered in NICU after 3 days treatment. My wife is a type I diabetic and pump handling patient. We noticed by third week, my son got some seizures, we consulted neuro he said benign sleep myoclonus that too by trunk while sleeping, during induced birth, my wife undergoes long labor time before surgery and the baby was deprived of oxygen. My doubt is that seizure that occurs while sleeping and not too often is worry free or serious. It is trunk myoclonus and we are advised to take phenobarbitone in syrup form gardenal for 6 months

  16. Mukesh vp says:

    Sir,frds please advice my 1year 2 month old baby having below jerks while waking up from sleep ,please advice is this is seizure or just jerks.
    this happening continuously from past 6 month(he is has done at least 6 times in a day),this jerks lasting less than 15 to 20 seconds on their own itself ,also while doing jerks if touch the baby that time also they were

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