The Prevalence and Incidence of Convulsive Disorders in Children



Summary: Each year, about 150,000 children and adolescents in the United States will come to medical attention for evaluation of a newly occurring seizure disorder of some type. Between 2% and 4% of all children in Europe and the United States experience at least one convulsion associated with a febrile illness before the age of 5 years. The cumulative incidence of febrile convulsions among children ranges from about 1% in China to more than 8% in Japan and 14% in Guam. The peak incidence of a first febrile convulsion occurs in the second year of life. Between 0.5% and 1% of children and adolescents experience a seizure associated with other acute metabolic or neurologic insults; most of these occur in the neonatal period. The incidence of epilepsy (recurrent unprovoked seizures) in children and adolescents seems relatively consistent across all populations studied, ranging from 50 to 100/100,000. The highest incidence of epilepsy is in the first year of life. West syndrome accounts for about 2% of all childhood epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome for 1–2%, childhood absence epilepsy (pyknolepsy) for 10–15%, juvenile myoclonic epilepsy for 5%, and idiopathic localization-related epilepsy for 10%. Between 0.5 and 1% of children experience a nonrecurrent, single, unprovoked convulsive episode. Following are the estimated numbers of children and adolescents with newly diagnosed convulsive disorders in the United States for the year 1990: febrile seizures, 100,000; neonatal seizures, 4,000; other provoked seizures, 6,000; single unprovoked seizures, 10,000; and epilepsy, 30,000.