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Common Causes of Seizures in Newborn Infants

Published on Sep 19, 2019 at 8:20 am in Birth Injury.
Common Causes of Seizures in Newborn Infants

When you’re about to have a baby, you want everything to go perfectly according to plan. You hope to leave the hospital with a happy, healthy baby, but that isn’t always the case. Some newborns are born with birth injuries that can affect development.

Seizures can be a sign that your baby suffered from a birth injury, especially to the brain. Some specific injuries cause seizures, but they can also be a result of a condition the baby had before birth. If you suspect your baby has suffered a brain injury, you’ll want to know what to look for.

Common Neonatal Seizure Causes

The most common cause of neonatal seizures is Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE). HIE is a type of birth injury in newborns where oxygen deprivation and limited blood flow cause brain damage. If the baby is not given therapeutic hypothermia treatment immediately after the diagnosis, their brain damage could be permanent and cause cognitive disabilities. According to the HIE Help Center, between 2 and 9 of every 1,000 live births are cases of HIE, which comes out to thousands of babies affected each year.

Since HIE should be treated right away before permanent damage can form, it’s important for parents to be vigilant of any warning signs. Here are some symptoms your baby might show if they have HIE:

  • Seizures
  • Low heart rate
  • Trouble breathing
  • Feeding problems
  • Pale skin
  • No reflexes
  • Low muscle tone described as “floppy”
  • Lower cognitive abilities
  • Apgar score less than 3

Other Causes of Seizures in Newborns

Birth injuries and defects can also cause seizures in newborns. Some common causes of seizures in newborn infants are:

  • Lack of oxygen
  • Infection
  • Stroke
  • Blood clot in the brain
  • Brain bleeding
  • Blood sugar or electrolyte imbalance
  • Drug withdrawal

Newborn Infant Seizure Types

In general, a seizure is caused by sudden and abnormal electrical activity in the brain. University of California San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital lists four categories of seizures in newborns. These are the types and symptoms to look for in your baby, as outlined by an article on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI):

  • Subtle. These account for 50% of all seizures in newborns and are classified as subtle because the signs are usually overlooked. Signs might be fixed eyes, facial movements, bicycle kicking, and crying.
  • Clonic. These are the next most frequent kind of seizures and account for 25%. They can be identified by localized rhythmic jerks in one part of the body.
  • Myoclonic. Accounting for 20% of neonatal seizures, these are distinguished by being single, rapid arrhythmic jerks. Myoclonic seizures can affect a body part as small as a finger, or as big as the whole body. These are the most dangerous and indicate a major brain injury when severe.
  • Tonic. Only 5% of seizures are tonic. Sustained muscle contraction in the face or limbs could indicate that your baby is having a tonic seizure.

When it comes to seizures, it’s best to take your baby to the doctor even if they have the slightest symptoms. If you are unsure if your baby’s actions are signs of a seizure or not, you never want to risk it. Take your baby to their doctor so that you can get your baby diagnosed right away. Most of the time early intervention can keep the seizures from progressing and can reduce further brain damage.

To diagnose a newborn’s seizures, an electroencephalogram (EEG) test is required. An EEG monitors the brain’s electrical activity for abnormalities. Most times an EEG shows risks for seizures, but some neonatal seizures don’t affect EEG readings, and so the results can come back normal. In that case, doctors might use an MRI or a CT scan to find the cause of the seizures.

When infants have seizures, it’s scary. If they were caused by a birth injury that could have been avoided, you’ll want an experienced attorney on your side. Corban Gunn will fight for your family with compassion and help you get justice. Reach out today for a free consultation of your case.

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