Ohtahara syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by seizures. The disorder affects newborns, usually within the first three months of life (most often within the first 10 days) in the form of epileptic seizures. Infants have primarily tonic seizures, but may also experience partial seizures, and rarely, myoclonic seizures. Ohtahara syndrome is most commonly caused by metabolic disorders or structural damage in the brain, although the cause or causes for many cases can’t be determined. Most infants with the disorder show significant underdevelopment of part or all of the cerebral hemispheres. The EEGs of infants with Ohtahara syndrome reveal a characteristic pattern of high voltage spike wave discharge followed by little activity. This pattern is known as “burst suppression.” Doctors have observed that boys are more often affected than girls.
Antiepileptic drugs are used to control seizures, but are unfortunately not usually very effective for this disorder. Corticosteroids are occasionally helpful. In cases where there is a focal brain lesion (damage contained to one area of the brain) surgery may be beneficial. Other therapies are symptomatic and supportive.
The course of Ohtahara syndrome is severely progressive. Seizures become more frequent, accompanied by delays in physical and cognitive development. Some children will die in infancy; others will survive but be profoundly handicapped. As they grow, some children will progress into other epileptic disorders such as West syndrome and Lennox-Gestaut syndrome.
The NINDS conducts and supports an extensive research program on seizures and seizure-related disorders. Much of this research is aimed at increasing scientific understanding of these disorders and finding ways to prevent, treat, and potentially cure them.
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Last Modified June 30, 2015