Seizure Burden and Neurologic Outcomes After Neonatal Encephalopathy

Huda M. Alharbi, Elana F. Pinchefsky, My An Tran, Carlos Ivan Salazar Cerda, Jessy Parokaran Varghese, Daphne Kamino, Elysa Widjaja, Eva Mamak, Linh Ly, Päivi Nevalainen, Cecil D. Hahn, Emily W.Y. Tam*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background and ObjectivesSeizures are common during neonatal encephalopathy (NE), but the contribution of seizure burden (SB) to outcomes remains controversial. This study aims to examine the relationship between electrographic SB and neurologic outcomes after NE.MethodsThis prospective cohort study recruited newborns ≥36 weeks postmenstrual age around 6 hours of life between August 2014 and November 2019 from a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Participants underwent continuous electroencephalography for at least 48 hours, brain MRI within 3-5 days of life, and structured follow-up at 18 months. Electrographic seizures were identified by board-certified neurophysiologists and quantified as total SB and maximum hourly SB. A medication exposure score was calculated based on all antiseizure medications given during NICU admission. Brain MRI injury severity was classified based on basal ganglia and watershed scores. Developmental outcomes were measured using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, Third Edition. Multivariable regression analyses were performed, adjusting for significant potential confounders.ResultsOf 108 enrolled infants, 98 had continuous EEG (cEEG) and MRI data collected, of which 5 were lost to follow-up, and 6 died before age 18 months. All infants with moderate-severe encephalopathy completed therapeutic hypothermia. cEEG-confirmed neonatal seizures occurred in 21 (24%) newborns, with a total SB mean of 12.5 ± 36.4 minutes and a maximum hourly SB mean of 4 ± 10 min/h. After adjusting for MRI brain injury severity and medication exposure, total SB was significantly associated with lower cognitive (-0.21, 95% CI -0.33 to -0.08, p = 0.002) and language (-0.25, 95% CI -0.39 to -0.11, p = 0.001) scores at 18 months. Total SB of 60 minutes was associated with 15-point decline in language scores and 70 minutes for cognitive scores. However, SB was not significantly associated with epilepsy, neuromotor score, or cerebral palsy (p > 0.1).DiscussionHigher SB during NE was independently associated with worse cognitive and language scores at 18 months, even after adjusting for exposure to antiseizure medications and severity of brain injury. These observations support the hypothesis that neonatal seizures occurring during NE independently contribute to long-term outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1976-E1984
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 9 2023
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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