Reduced infancy and childhood epilepsy following hypothermia-treated neonatal encephalopathy



To investigate what proportion of a regional cohort of cooled infants with neonatal encephalopathy develop epilepsy (determined by the International League Against Epilepsy [ILAE] definition and the number of antiepileptic drugs [AEDs]) up to 8 years of age.


From 2006–2013, 151 infants with perinatal asphyxia underwent 72 h cooling. Clinical and amplitude-integrated electroencepalography (aEEG) with single-channel EEG-verified neonatal seizures were treated with AEDs. Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was assessed using a 0–11 severity score.

Postneonatal seizures, epilepsy rates, and AED treatments were documented. One hundred thirty-four survivors were assessed at 18–24 months; adverse outcome was defined as death or Bayley III composite Cognition/Language or Motor scores <85 and/or severe cerebral palsy or severely reduced vision/hearing. Epilepsy rates in 103 children age 4–8 years were also documented.


aEEG confirmed seizures occurred precooling in 77 (57%) 151 of neonates; 48% had seizures during and/or after cooling and received AEDs. Only one infant was discharged on AEDs. At 18–24 months, one third of infants had an adverse outcome including 11% mortality. At 2 years, 8 (6%) infants had an epilepsy diagnosis (ILAE definition), of whom 3 (2%) received AEDs. Of the 103 4- to 8-year-olds, 14 (13%) had developed epilepsy, with 7 (7%) receiving AEDs. Infants/children on AEDs had higher MRI scores than those not on AEDs (median [interquartile range] 9 [8–11] vs. 2 [0–4]) and poorer outcomes. Nine (64%) of 14 children with epilepsy had cerebral palsy compared to 13 (11%) of 120 without epilepsy, and 10 (71%) of 14 children with epilepsy had adverse outcomes versus 23 (19%) of 120 survivors without epilepsy. The number of different AEDs given to control neonatal seizures, aEEG severity precooling, and MRI scores predicted childhood epilepsy.


We report, in a regional cohort of infants cooled for perinatal asphyxia, 6% with epilepsy at 2 years (2% on AEDs) increasing to 13% (7% on AEDs) at early school age. These AED rates are much lower than those reported in the cooling trials, even with adjusting for our cohort′s milder asphyxia. Long-term follow-up is needed to document final epilepsy rates.