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Neonatal Seizures Treatment & Management

  • Author: Raj D Sheth, MD; Chief Editor: Amy Kao, MD  more...
Updated: Apr 15, 2016

Medical Care

Acute neonatal seizures should be treated aggressively, although controversy exists as to the optimal treatment for them.[10, 17]

When clinical seizures are present, a rigorous workup to determine an underlying etiologic cause should be initiated quickly. Electrolyte imbalances should be corrected through a central venous site. Hypocalcemia should be treated cautiously with calcium, since leakage of calcium into subcutaneous tissue can cause scarring.

When an inborn error of metabolism is suspected, discontinue feeding, since feeding may exacerbate the seizures and encephalopathy. Institute intravenous solutions.

Once these issues have been addressed, antiepileptic drug (AED) therapy should be considered. Phenobarbital is the initial drug of choice. If seizures persist, the use of phenytoin should be considered.

Patients with seizures resulting from intracranial hemorrhage should have head circumference measurements performed daily. A rapid increase in head circumference may indicate hydrocephalus.


Seizure Medications

Seizure medication concentrations should be monitored during the acute period. These drugs often are discontinued between ages 3 and 6 months if further seizures have not occurred. A trend toward earlier discontinuation has met with good results.

A general recommendation is to use AEDs for 3 months, but electroencephalography may be helpful in deciding when to stop AEDs.

If the patient remains seizure free, then medications may be tapered gradually. If the patient is on 2 AEDs, then one should be tapered first before considering withdrawal of the other.

If seizures recur, then the patient should be placed back on AEDs. The patient may be placed on the original AED, or carbamazepine may be considered.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Raj D Sheth, MD Chief, Division of Pediatric Neurology, Nemours Children's Clinic; Professor of Neurology, Mayo College of Medicine; Professor of Pediatrics, University of Florida College of Medicine

Raj D Sheth, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Neurology, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Epilepsy Society, American Neurological Association, Child Neurology Society

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 Stanley Rust Jr, MD, MA Thomas E Worrell Jr Professor of Epileptology and Neurology, Co-Director of FE Dreifuss Child Neurology and Epilepsy Clinics, Director, Child Neurology, University of Virginia; Chair-Elect, Child Neurology Section, American Academy of Neurology

Robert Stanley Rust Jr, MD, MA is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Neurology, American Epilepsy Society, American Headache Society, American Neurological Association, Child Neurology Society, International Child Neurology Association, and Society for Pediatric Research

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 Salary Employment

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Onset of neonatal seizure demonstrating a focal onset in the right frontal (FP4) region. At this point, the child had head and eye deviation to the left.
Twenty seconds into a seizure that had focal onset in the right frontal (FP4) region, the seizure shows a rhythmic buildup of activity in the right frontocentral region.
This seizure had focal onset in the right frontal (FP4) region and subsequent buildup of activity in the right frontocentral region. As the seizure evolves, the electroencephalogram shows diffuse involvement of both cerebral hemispheres.
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