Neuropediatrics 2021; 52(02): 073-083
DOI: 10.1055/s-0040-1721702
Review Article

Recent Advances in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Neonatal Seizures

1  Child Neurology Section, Department of Pediatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas, United States
› Author Affiliations
Funding The author received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


Seizures are the most common neurological emergency in the neonates, and this age group has the highest incidence of seizures compared with any other period of life. The author provides a narrative review of recent advances in the genetics of neonatal epilepsies, new neonatal seizure classification system, diagnostics, and treatment of neonatal seizures based on a comprehensive literature review (MEDLINE using PubMED and OvidSP vendors with appropriate keywords to incorporate recent evidence), personal practice, and experience. Knowledge regarding various systemic and postzygotic genetic mutations responsible for neonatal epilepsy has been exploded in recent times, as well as better delineation of clinical phenotypes associated with rare neonatal epilepsies. An International League Against Epilepsy task force on neonatal seizure has proposed a new neonatal seizure classification system and also evaluated the specificity of semiological features related to particular etiology. Although continuous video electroencephalogram (EEG) is the gold standard for monitoring neonatal seizures, amplitude-integrated EEGs have gained significant popularity in resource-limited settings. There is tremendous progress in the automated seizure detection algorithm, including the availability of a fully convolutional neural network using artificial machine learning (deep learning). There is a substantial need for ongoing research and clinical trials to understand optimal medication selection (first line, second line, and third line) for neonatal seizures, treatment duration of antiepileptic drugs after cessation of seizures, and strategies to improve neuromorbidities such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and developmental impairments. Although in recent times, levetiracetam use has been significantly increased for neonatal seizures, a multicenter, randomized, blinded, controlled phase IIb trial confirmed the superiority of phenobarbital over levetiracetam in the acute suppression of neonatal seizures. While there is no single best choice available for the management of neonatal seizures, institutional guidelines should be formed based on a consensus of local experts to mitigate wide variability in the treatment and to facilitate early diagnosis and treatment.


The author declares no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and publication of this article.

Publication History

Received: 12 June 2020

Accepted: 16 September 2020

Publication Date:
08 December 2020 (online)

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