Neonatal Seizures: Definition & Types

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Like adults, babies can also have plenty of medical problems. This includes neonatal seizures. In this lesson, you will find out what these are and the three major types of seizures that occur in neonates.

Neonatal Disorders

We can all agree that it's bad enough to have a medical disorder. But what's even worse is when the medical disorder affects an innocent being, like a newborn. Sadly, newborns are not immune from plenty of medical issue. One of them is called a neonatal seizure. Let's define this term and go over its major types.

What Is A Neonatal Seizure?

A neonatal seizure is a form of neurological dysfunction that affects a newborn. Neonate means newborn. The word comes from 'neo-' which means new or recent and '-nate', which comes from natus, the word for 'born' in Latin. To put it more precisely, it is generally agreed that the term neonate is limited to the first four weeks of your child's life.

A seizure is a term that refers to the electrochemical dysfunction of your brain. Your brain is composed, in part, of cells called neurons. These are brain cells. They use an electrochemical signal to communicate with one another and with the rest of your body. Just think of these brain cells as a combination of the chips and electrical wires found in an electronic device. The chip is like the body of the brain cell, and the wire is like the brain cell's axon. The axons transmits the electrochemical signal from one brain cell to another.

You know that electronic gadgets can go haywire, right? They can send the wrong signals at the wrong time. They may send too many signals and overload the system. Sparks may even fly as a result of a short circuit! Well, place this scenario inside your head and imagine it's the brain cells that are going haywire. That's what a seizure is.

The problem is that such crazy electrical signals wreak havoc on the body. They send inappropriate signals to various parts of the body, like the muscles, to perform movements they otherwise would never perform. This helps explain why some people experience very intense movements to their body during a seizure.

Types Of Neonatal Seizures

That being said, there are three main types of neonatal seizures caused by the short-circuiting described above.

One of these seizures is called a clonic seizure. Clonic is a term that comes from clonus. Clonus refers to a state where a person's muscles involuntarily contract and relax in a rapid and repetitive manner. In short, think of a clonic seizure as one where a person moves their body in a jerking motion over and over again.

Another type of neonatal seizure is the tonic seizure. Think of a musical tone to help your remember this one. A tone is a sustained sound. Well, tonic seizures produce a sustained tone (stiffness or rigidity) to the neonate's muscles.

The final major type of neonatal seizure is called a myoclonic seizure. 'Myo-' refers to muscle. In this type of seizure, a muscle or a group of muscles move in a jerk like manner, sometimes for less than a second. Now, you might be confused as to the difference between a clonic and and myoclonic seizure. Both of them involve jerk or shock-like movements. The key difference is that the movements of a clonic seizure occur in a rhythmic manner, while those of a myoclonic seizure are arrhythmic jerking movements.

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