• Infantile spasms;
  • Anticonvulsants;
  • Neurosurgery

Summary: Although infantile spasms were initially described in 1841, remarkably little progress has been made in understanding the pathophysiology of this “peculiar form of infantile convulsions.” Consequently, our ability to treat infantile spasms is limited. Infantile spasms are classified as a “generalized” seizure disorder in the international classification system, which suggests that the underlying brain abnormality causing the seizures also must be diffuse or generalized. As the classification suggests, there are many diffuse, or multifocal, brain disorders related to infantile spasms, e.g., inborn errors of metabolism, hypoxic-ischemic brain injury, and developmental brain defects such as tuberous sclerosis or Aicardi's syndrome. On the other hand, infantile spasms have been reported in which a localized brain abnormality was present, e.g., tumor, stroke, and trauma. On rare occasions, removal of a tumor has resulted in cessation of the generalized infantile spasms. This finding suggests that focal cortical abnormalities can cause infantile spasms and that removing the abnormality can stop the seizures. At University of California, Los Angeles, the Pediatric Epilepsy Surgery Program has developed new approaches to the treatment of infantile spasms. The principal underlying concepts are (a) children with medically refractory infantile spasms may have an area of cortical defect (called the zone of cortical abnormality) that causes the seizures and (b) infantile spasms are usually generalized seizures. Thus, the goal of the surgical assessment is not the identification of the focus of seizure onset but rather the identification of the zone of cortical abnormality.