Incidence and outcome of epilepsy syndromes with onset in the first year of life: A retrospective population-based study



Population-based studies on infantile epilepsy syndromes are scarce. Our aim was to provide syndrome-specific data on the incidence and outcome of epilepsy in a population-based cohort of infants with epilepsy onset in the first year.


Included were all infants born in 1997 through 2006 whose epileptic seizures started before 12 months of age and who were residents of the Helsinki University Hospital district at the time of seizure onset. Patients were ascertained from hospital statistics, and all patient charts were reviewed. A reevaluation of the epilepsy syndromes, age at onset, etiology, and outcome at 24 months of age was based on data abstracted from the patient files.


Inclusion criteria were fulfilled by 158 infants, of whom 92% were followed until age 24 months or death. The incidence of epilepsy in the first year was 124 of 100,000. An epilepsy syndrome recognized by the revised organization of epilepsies by ILAE was identified in 58% of the patients. The most common syndromes were West syndrome (41/100,000) and benign familial or nonfamilial infantile epilepsy (22/100,000). Etiology was structural-metabolic in 35%, genetic in 17%, and unknown in 48%. Early age at onset was associated with structural-metabolic etiology. Seven infants (4.4%) died before age 2 years. One infant with an SCN2A mutation died of sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP). At 24 months, 58% of all children included in the cohort were seizure-free, and 46% had both seizure freedom and age-appropriate cognitive development. Age at onset was not associated with outcome when etiology was controlled for.


Benign familial and nonfamilial infantile epilepsy appears to be more common than previously suggested, second only to West syndrome. Early age at onset is not an independent risk factor for poor outcome.