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Benign Neonatal Convulsions Differential Diagnoses

  • Author: Nitin C Patel, MD, MPH, FAAN; Chief Editor: Amy Kao, MD  more...
Updated: Feb 16, 2016

Diagnostic Considerations

Before diagnosing an infant with benign neonatal convulsions, other conditions should be ruled out as causative factors, including prenatal or perinatal stroke, perinatal asphyxia, fever, persistent lethargy, pertinent maternal illness or drug abuse, signs of metabolic dysfunction, or neurologic abnormalities. See the differentials list below.

Although a "shotgun" approach is wasteful and unreasonable, it is also important not to miss a diagnosis of a treatable meningoencephalitis in the early stages or intracranial hemorrhage. Both of these conditions in neonates lack the typical findings observed in older infants and children, and the only early symptom may be seizures.

Also, entertain a healthy suspicion for child abuse in neonates, who often have just arrived home from the hospital following delivery.

Other Problems to Be Considered

Vitamin B-6 deficiency, maternal drug abuse, arteriovenous malformations, and tuberous sclerosis should also be considered during the evaluation of an infant for benign neonatal convulsions.

Differential Diagnoses

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Nitin C Patel, MD, MPH, FAAN Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and Neurology, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine; Private Practice, Columbia Center for Child Neurology

Nitin C Patel, MD, MPH, FAAN is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Neurology, American Epilepsy Society, American Headache Society, Child Neurology Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Nancy Theresa Rodgers-Neame, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology, University of South Florida College of Medicine; Director, Florida Comprehensive Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders Program

Nancy Theresa Rodgers-Neame, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Neurology, American Clinical Neurophysiology Society, American Epilepsy Society, American Medical Womens Association, Society for Neuroscience, Southern Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Robin D Riggins, RN, MSN, CPNP Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Department of Pediatric Neurology, University of Missouri Health Care Hospitals and Clinics

Robin D Riggins, RN, MSN, CPNP is a member of the following medical societies: National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, American Association of Neuroscience Nurses

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Harsha N Patel, MD, MPH Assistant Professor, Department of Child Health, University Hospital; Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Amy Kao, MD Attending Neurologist, Children's National Medical Center

Amy Kao, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Neurology, American Epilepsy Society, Child Neurology Society

Disclosure: Have stock from Cellectar Biosciences; have stock from Varian medical systems; have stock from Express Scripts.


Robert J Baumann, MD Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics, Department of Neurology, University of Kentucky College of Medicine

Robert J Baumann, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Neurology, American Academy of Pediatrics, and Child Neurology Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Medscape Reference Salary Employment

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