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30-10-2011 | Neurology | Article

Premature birth linked to increased risk for epilepsy in adulthood


Free abstract

MedWire News: Individuals born prematurely are at an increased risk for developing epilepsy, research shows.

The team reports that individuals born between 6 and 14 weeks prematurely have a five-times greater risk for epilepsy in adulthood compared with individuals born at full term (37-42 weeks).

"This association was independent of fetal growth and did not appear to be mediated by cerebral palsy or other comorbidities," write Casey Crump (Stanford University, California, USA) and colleagues in the journal Neurology.

Previous studies have shown associations between preterm birth and epilepsy in early life, but the longer-term risk for epilepsy is unknown.

Crump and colleagues therefore assessed the long-term risk for epilepsy using data from more than 630,000 Swedish infants, including 27,953 born preterm (<37 weeks), between 1973 and 1979.

After adjusting for multiple confounders, including fetal growth, individuals born at 23-31 weeks were five times more likely to be hospitalized for epilepsy (odds ratio [OR]=4.98) than individuals born at full term.

Individuals born at 32-34 weeks had a two-fold higher risk for epilepsy (OR=1.98).

Even individuals born late preterm (35-36 weeks) were at an increased risk for epilepsy compared with those born at full term (OR=1.76).

The associations remained after adjusting for cerebral palsy, inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system, and other comorbidities.

Inpatient and outpatient antiepileptic drug prescription was also associated with premature birth, report Crump and colleagues.

The overall risk for epilepsy remains low, note the researchers, but the risk associated with premature birth extends later into adulthood and does not appear to fade as had been previously suspected.

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