To evaluate and manage epileptic seizures and other paroxysmal events in infants, it is necessary to ask five key questions: (1) Is this a type of epilepsy?; (2) What seizure type(s) are occurring?; (3) Do these seizure types, combined with factors such as age at onset and EEG features, constitute an ‘epilepsy syndrome’?; (4) What investigations do we need to do in searching for an underlying aetiology? and finally, (5) What is the prognosis for neurological and developmental state in later life?
This review considers epilepsies that have an onset in infancy but after the perinatal period, outlines the commoner epilepsy syndromes occurring in this age group and describes paroxysmal events that can mimic epilepsy. Epilepsies in infancy may be the manifestation of a genetic predisposition associated with a benign course and good prognosis for neurodevelopment. In contrast, they may pose the challenging situation of ‘epileptic encephalopathy’, rare but potentially treatable metabolic conditions, or structural abnormalities with poor developmental outlook and intractable seizures. Seizures in infancy are relatively rare and there is a wide range of underlying causes, some of which require specific treatments to avoid preventable neurodevelopmental damage. Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence suggests early referral of cases of infantile epilepsy to a tertiary centre.