A single seizure of a short duration does not cause appreciable harm. However we know that very frequent seizures can harm the brain and make it more likely to have further seizures. To protect your baby’s brain from further damage we treat seizures even when only detected on the EEG.
Often newborns require medication for a short period after birth. Ongoing seizures are very uncommon in the newborn, compared to older children or adults and often settle after a few days. When your baby is discharged from the hospital, the medication might already have been stopped or reduced. For some babies, seizures persist and medication needs to be continued and your baby monitored as an outpatient.
We know that in the baby’s brain, numerous developmental changes occur very quickly. We also know that anti-seizure medications can have an impact on development. For example, when a medication makes your baby sleepy it cannot discover the world in the same way and acquire new skills at the same speed as a baby who is not sleepy. Due to this, we always try to reduce medications (and therefore the risk of side effects) or stop them as quickly as possible. It is thought that short periods of treatment do not affect long term development, but the underlying reason that the seizures occurred may also indicate problems. Your doctor will discuss this with you.
Neurophysiologist expertise is not available in every hospital and certainly not available 24/7. People who have the knowledge and experience to read the EEGs of a newborn are in short supply. Our multidisciplinary group of scientists, clinicians and engineers have been working for a number of years to design new equipment and computer programs that will monitor these babies, and automatically alert us if there are problems. The culmination of this work is now known as ANSeR. Participating in the ANSeR Clinical Investigation could improve monitoring systems for other babies in the future. Our aim is to give every one of these babies an expert opinion when they need it.