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Research: babies born in poor health more likely to develop epilepsy

26 May, 2006

Children born with low Apgar scores,
a widely-used system for quickly assessing the health of newborn
children immediately after childbirth, are more likely than children
with higher scores to develop epilepsy in childhood or as a young
adult, according to new research.

The
Apgar score is calculated by evaluating the newborn baby on five points
(skin colour, heart rate, reflex irritability, muscle tone and
respiration) on a scale from zero to two and adding up the five values.
The assessments are normally done one and five minutes after birth. The
resulting Apgar score ranges from zero (the lowest) to 10 (the highest)

In the study, published in the journal Epidemiology, researchers from the University of Aarhus looked at the birth records of around 1½ million Danish children born between 1978 and 2002.

The
researchers found that the likelihood of children developing epilepsy
increased the lower the Apgar scores were. Children with a five-minute
Apgar score of between one and three were seven time more likely to
develop epilepsy compared to those with an Apgar score of 10.

The
likelihood of epilepsy associated with low Apgar score was greatest
during the first year of life, but the risk remained higher throughout
childhood and up to 25 years of age.

Lead researcher Dr Yuelian Sun commented:

"The
new findings suggest that prenatal or perinatal [before and around the
time of child birth] factors play a larger role in the (cause) of
epilepsy than has previously been recognised. Potential causes of
epilepsy related to pregnancy and birth could be infections, maternal
lifestyle factors, maternal complications during pregnancy, and factors
related to the delivery process."