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Infantile Spasms

Infantile spasm is a specific type of seizure seen in an epilepsy syndrome of infancy and early childhood known as West Syndrome. West Syndrome is characterized by infantile spasms, hypsarrhythmia (abnormal, chaotic brain wave patterns), and mental retardation. Other neurological disorders, such as cerebral palsy, may be seen in 30-50% of those with infantile spasms.

Infantile Spasms: An Overview

Infantile spasm is a specific type of seizure seen in an epilepsy syndrome of infancy and early childhood known as West Syndrome. Symptoms of infantile spasm predominantly appear in the first year of life, typically between 3-6 months.
 
The typical pattern of infantile spasms is a sudden bending forward and stiffening of the body, arms, and legs; although there can also be arching of the torso. Spasms tend to begin soon after arousal from sleep. Individual spasms typically last for 1 to 5 seconds and occur in clusters, ranging from 2 to 100 spasms at a time. Infants may have dozens of clusters and several hundred spasms per day. Infantile spasms usually stop by age 5, but are often replaced by other types of seizures.
 
West Syndrome is characterized by infantile spasms, hypsarrhythmia (abnormal, chaotic brain wave patterns), and mental retardation. Other neurological disorders, such as cerebral palsy, may be seen in 30-50% of those with infantile spasms.
 

Treatment for Infantile Spasms

Infantile spasms treatment with corticosteroids such as ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) and prednisone is standard, despite the risk of serious side effects. Vigabatrin (Sabril®) is a seizure medication approved to treat infantile spasms, although it does carry some very serious risks (like a high risk for permanent vision loss).
 
A small minority of children has secondarily generalized spasms as the result of cortical lesions (areas of damaged brain tissue). Removal of these lesions may result in improvement.
 
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Information About Infantile Spasms

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