Cognitive and neurological disorders in offspring of mothers with epilepsy – risks factors

Janusz Wendorff

Affiliation and address for correspondence
Aktualn Neurol 2006, 6 (3), p. 185-190

Since the eighties of the 20th century, studies have been carried out on the health state of children of epileptic mothers. These studies indicated quite high percentage of children with mental retardation and inborn defects. They are thought to be associated with less effective treatment in pregnancy, application of antiepileptic drugs of marked teratogenic properties (phenobarbital, phenytoin) and also with polytherapy as the principle of antiepileptic management. Then, the groups of pregnant women with epilepsy were not subjected to specialistic care of a neurologist and obstetrician. Current studies evaluating neuropsychological state of offspring of epileptic mothers point to the occurrence of psychomotor retardation, increased risk of manifestation of central nervous system significant and insignificant dysfunction, epilepsy as well as lower than on the average global intellectual ability and insignificant neurological dysfunction. Psychomotor retardation concerns mainly visual and auditory coordination, speech and social contacts. The latest prospective studies of epileptic mothers’ offspring indicate that epilepsy is significantly more frequently manifested among them (7% till the end of the first decade) than it was reported in earlier retrospective studies. In this period, generalized epilepsy (different syndromes) is more often revealed in offspring of mothers with early manifestation of epilepsy with attacks of unconsciousness. Polytherapy and monotherapy with walproine acid is a very important factor of the risk of decreased intelligence quotient and less beneficial results of learning. The importance of other risk factors including environmental has not been recognized sufficiently. Low socioeconomic level and the child’s male gender modify distinctly unbeneficially the effect of antiepileptic drugs administered in pregnancy. However, the so far carried out studies have not comprised sufficiently numerous groups of offspring of epileptic mothers and the methods of assessment applied by particular authors differ significantly. Furthermore, majority of mechanisms of the way different genetic and environmental factors affect the development of cognitive functions in offspring of epileptic patients are not known. 

maternal epilepsy, psychomotor development of offspring, cognitive disorders, childhood epilepsy, risk factors

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