Seizures in newborns can be similar to epileptic seizures later in life with twitching in one or both arms or legs. Symptoms can also be more diffuse such as repeated, stereotypical movements of the arms ("rowing"), legs ("cycling") or chewing. Additional symptoms include apnoea, smacking of the lips, as well as changes in blood pressure or heart rate. The symptoms are often short-lived and the attack may last seconds or up to a few minutes.
If you witness your baby having a seizure, you can film it on your mobile phone and show the staff.
In order to confirm the diagnosis and determine treatment, an electroencephalogram (EEG) is performed to record the electrical activity of the brain. Electrodes are attached to the baby's head and the brain activity is visible on a monitor.
Seizures must be investigated promptly and the underlying cause treated. The investigation includes blood tests to detect low blood sugar, electrolyte imbalances and signs of infection. In addition, ultrasound and MRI examinations are performed to image the brain and detect any damage.
The most common causes of seizures in newborns are asphyxia, stroke, cerebral haemorrhage, low blood sugar and metabolic disorders. Seizures also occur as a result of withdrawal if the mother has been taking certain medications or been using drugs during pregnancy.
The treatment is to correct any underlying disease as soon as possible while treating seizures with anticonvulsant, antiepileptic medication. Seizures are a sign that there is a disturbance in the brain and with proper treatment the symptoms will clear up within a week, and the anticonvulsant medication can be discontinued. For some babies, long-term treatment with anticonvulsant, antiepileptic medication may be required.
Text: Kajsa Bohlin Blennow