CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 · Am J Perinatol
DOI: 10.1055/s-0040-1721711
Original Article

How Helpful Is aEEG? Context and User Experience Matter

1  Division of Child Neurology, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Courtney J. Wusthoff
1  Division of Child Neurology, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
2  Division of Child Neurology and Division of Pediatrics—Neonatal and Developmental Medicine, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California
› Author Affiliations


Objective The aim of the study is to model amplitude-integrated electroencephalography (aEEG) utility to diagnose seizures in common clinical scenarios.

Study Design Using reported neonatal seizure prevalence and aEEG sensitivities and specificities, likelihood ratios (LRs) and post-test probabilities were calculated to quantify aEEG utility to diagnose seizures in three typical clinical scenarios.

Results Prevalence data supported pretest probabilities for neonatal seizures of 0.4 in neonatal hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), 0.27 in bacterial meningitis, and 0.05 in extreme prematurity. Reported sensitivity of 85% and specificity of 90% for seizures with expert aEEG interpretation yielded a positive likelihood ratio (LR+) of 8.7 and a negative likelihood ratio (LR−) of 0.17. Reported sensitivity of 65% and specificity of 70% with intermediate interpretation yielded LR+ 2.17 and LR− 0.5. Reported sensitivity of 40% and sensitivity of 50% with inexperienced interpretation gave LR+ 0.8 and LR− 1.2. These translate the ability to move pretest to post-test probability highly dependent on user expertise. For HIE, a pretest probability of seizure of 0.4 moves to a post-test probability of 0.85 when aEEG is positive for seizures by expert interpretation, and down to 0.1 when aEEG is negative. In contrast, no useful information was gained between pretest and post-test probability by aEEG interpreted as negative or positive for seizure at the inexperienced user level. Similarly, in the models of meningitis or extreme prematurity, incremental information gained from aEEG ranged widely based on interpreter experience.

Conclusion aEEG is most useful to screen for neonatal seizures when used in conditions with high seizure prevalence, and when interpretation has a sensitivity and specificity as reported for expert users. In contrast, aEEG can become negligible in providing meaningful clinical information when applied in conditions having lower seizure prevalence or when interpretation has low accuracy. Appropriate patient selection and high quality interpretation are essential for aEEG utility in neonatal seizure detection.

Key Points

  • aEEG utility for neonatal seizure screening relies on patient selection and quality interpretation.

  • Utility of aEEG is highest with high seizure prevalence and expert interpretation.

  • Utility of aEEG can be negligible with lower seizure prevalence or low accuracy interpretation.

Publication History

Received: 04 June 2020

Accepted: 02 November 2020

Publication Date:
15 December 2020 (online)

© 2020. The Author(s). This is an open access article published by Thieme under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonDerivative-NonCommercial License, permitting copying and reproduction so long as the original work is given appropriate credit. Contents may not be used for commercial purposes, or adapted, remixed, transformed or built upon. (

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