The epileptic encephalopathies of infancy and childhood

Elaine Wirrell, Kevin Farrell, Sharon Whiting

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


The epileptic encephalopathies comprise a group of devastating seizure syndromes which begin in infancy and early childhood and usually result in intractable epilepsy. While some syndromes are relatively easily diagnosed early in their course, others take time to evolve, hampering an early, confident diagnosis. Epileptic encephalopathies are associated with slowing of cognitive function and evolution of severe behavioral disorders, which are often more distressing to families than the epilepsy. While an underlying etiology may explain some of this co-morbidity, many children have no identifiable etiology found for their seizures. In these "idiopathic" cases, recurrent subtle seizures, frequent epileptiform discharge and non-convulsive status epilepticus probably all play a role in deterioration of cognitive function and evolution of behavior disorders. This paper will review the most common epileptic encephalopathy syndromes, discuss the cognitive and behavioral co-morbidities and review current therapeutic options.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-418
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Journal of Neurological Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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