Epilepsy syndromes in cerebral palsy: varied, evolving and mostly self-limited

Monica S. Cooper, Mark T. Mackay, Charuta Dagia, Michael C. Fahey, Katherine B. Howell, Dinah Reddihough, Susan Reid, A. Simon Harvey

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Seizures occur in approximately one-third of children with cerebral palsy. This study aimed to determine epilepsy syndromes in children with seizures and cerebral palsy due to vascular injury, anticipating that this would inform treatment and prognosis. We studied a population-based cohort of children with cerebral palsy due to prenatal or perinatal vascular injuries, born 1999-2006. Each child's MRI was reviewed to characterize patterns of grey and white matter injury. Children with syndromic or likely genetic causes of cerebral palsy were excluded, given their inherent association with epilepsy and our aim to study a homogeneous cohort of classical cerebral palsy. Chart review, parent interview and EEGs were used to determine epilepsy syndromes and seizure outcomes. Of 256 children, 93 (36%) had one or more febrile or afebrile seizures beyond the neonatal period and 87 (34%) had epilepsy. Children with seizures were more likely to have had neonatal seizures, have spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and function within Gross Motor Function Classification System level IV or V. Fifty-six (60%) children with seizures had electroclinical features of a self-limited focal epilepsy of childhood; we diagnosed these children with a self-limited focal epilepsy-variant given the current International League Against Epilepsy classification precludes a diagnosis of self-limited focal epilepsy in children with a brain lesion. Other epilepsy syndromes were focal epilepsy-not otherwise specified in 28, infantile spasms syndrome in 11, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome in three, genetic generalized epilepsies in two and febrile seizures in nine. No epilepsy syndrome could be assigned in seven children with no EEG. Twenty-one changed syndrome classification during childhood. Self-limited focal epilepsy-variant usually manifested with a mix of autonomic and brachio-facial motor features, and occipital and/or centro-temporal spikes on EEG. Of those with self-limited focal epilepsy-variant, 42/56 (75%) had not had a seizure for >2 years. Favourable seizure outcomes were also seen in some children with infantile spasms syndrome and focal epilepsy-not otherwise specified. Of the 93 children with seizures, at last follow-up (mean age 15 years), 61/91 (67%) had not had a seizure in >2 years. Children with cerebral palsy and seizures can be assigned specific epilepsy syndrome diagnoses typically reserved for normally developing children, those syndromes commonly being age-dependent and self-limited. Compared to typically developing children with epilepsy, self-limited focal epilepsy-variant occurs much more commonly in children with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. These findings have important implications for treatment and prognosis of epilepsy in cerebral palsy, and research into pathogenesis of self-limited focal epilepsy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-599
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2023


  • idiopathic focal epilepsy
  • Panayiotopoulos syndrome
  • Rolandic epilepsy
  • seizures
  • self-limited focal epilepsy

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