Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Defining the gap between electrographic seizure burden, clinical expression and staff recognition of neonatal seizures
  1. D M Murray1,2,
  2. G B Boylan1,2,
  3. I Ali1,2,
  4. C A Ryan1,2,
  5. B P Murphy1,2,
  6. S Connolly1,2
  1. 1
    Unified Maternity and Neonatal Services, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
  2. 2
    Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  1. Professor C A Ryan, Cork University Maternity Hospital, Wilton, Cork, Ireland; ryant01{at}


Background: Neonatal seizures are often subclinical, making accurate diagnosis difficult.

Objective: To describe the clinical manifestations of electrographic seizures recorded on continuous video-EEG, and to compare this description with the recognition of clinical seizures by experienced neonatal staff.

Methods: Term infants, at risk of seizures, were monitored by continuous 12-channel video-EEG from <6 hours of birth for up to 72 hours. All clinical seizures were recorded by experienced neonatal staff on individual seizure charts. Video-EEG recordings were subsequently analysed. The number, duration and clinical expression of electrographic seizures were calculated (in seconds), and compared with the seizures clinically suspected by the neonatal staff.

Results: Of 51 infants enrolled, nine had electrographic seizures. A further three had clinically suspected seizures, without associated electrographic abnormality. Of the total 526 electrographic seizures, 179 (34%) had clinical manifestations evident on the simultaneous video recording. The clinical seizure activity corresponded to 18.8% of the total electrographic seizure burden. Overdiagnosis also occurred frequently. Of the 177 clinically suspected seizure episodes documented by staff, 48 (27%) had corresponding electrographic evidence of seizure activity Thus, only 9% (48/526) of electrographic seizures were accompanied by clinical manifestations, which were identified and documented by neonatal staff.

Conclusion: Only one-third of neonatal EEG seizures displays clinical signs on simultaneous video recordings. Moreover, two-thirds of these clinical manifestations are unrecognised, or misinterpreted by experienced neonatal staff. In the recognition and management of neonatal seizures clinical diagnosis alone is not enough.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding: This study was funded by a grant from the Irish Institute of Clinical Neuroscience and an interdisciplinary grant from the Health Research Board of Ireland.

  • Competing interests: None.

  • Ethical approval: Approved by the ethical committee of Cork University Hospital.

Linked Articles

  • Fantoms
    Ben Stenson