Seizures may cause diagnostic confusion and be a source of metabolic stress after traumatic brain injury (TBI) in children. The incidence of electroencephalography (EEG)-confirmed seizures and of subclinical seizures in the pediatric population with TBI is not well known.
A routine protocol for continuous EEG (cEEG) monitoring was initiated for all patients with moderate or severe TBI at a Level 1 pediatric trauma center. Over a 3.5-year period, all patients with TBI who underwent cEEG monitoring, both according to protocol and those with mild head injuries who underwent cEEG monitoring at the discretion of the treating team, were identified prospectively. Clinical data were collected and analyzed.
Over the study period, 594 children were admitted with TBI, and 144 of these children underwent cEEG monitoring. One hundred two (71%) of these 144 children had moderate or severe TBI. Abusive head trauma (AHT) was the most common mechanism of injury (65 patients, 45%) in children with cEEG monitoring. Seizures were identified on cEEG in 43 patients (30%). Forty (93%) of these 43 patients had subclinical seizures, including 17 (40%) with only subclinical seizures and 23 (53%) with both clinical and subclinical seizures. Fifty-three percent of patients with seizures experienced status epilepticus. Age less than 2.4 years and AHT mechanism were strongly correlated with presence of seizures (odds ratios 8.7 and 6.0, respectively). Those patients with only subclinical seizures had the same risk factors as the other groups. The presence of seizures did not correlate with discharge disposition but was correlated with longer hospital stay and intensive care unit stay.
Continuous EEG monitoring identifies a significant number of subclinical seizures acutely after TBI. Children younger than 2.4 years of age and victims of AHT are particularly vulnerable to subclinical seizures, and seizures in general. Continuous EEG monitoring allows for accurate diagnosis and timely treatment of posttraumatic seizures, and may mitigate secondary injury to the traumatized brain.