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Open Access Research article

Neonatal seizures in a rural Kenyan District Hospital: aetiology, Incidence and outcome of hospitalization

Michael Mwaniki1*, Ali Mathenge1, Samson Gwer1, Neema Mturi1, Evasius Bauni1, Charles RJC Newton123, James Berkley14 and Richard Idro15

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Geographic Medicine Research (Coast), Kenya Medical Research Institute, PO Box 230, Kilifi, Kenya

2 Clinical Research Unit, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK

3 Neurosciences Unit, UCL-Institute of Child Health, The Wolfson Centre, Mecklenburgh Square, London, WC1N 2AP, UK

4 Centre for Clinical Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine University of Oxford Churchill Hospital Oxford, OX3 7LJ, UK

5 Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Mulago Hospital/Makerere University Medical School, Kampala, Uganda

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BMC Medicine 2010, 8:16  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-8-16

Published: 17 March 2010

Abstract

Background

Acute seizures are common among children admitted to hospitals in resource poor countries. However, there is little data on the burden, causes and outcome of neonatal seizures in sub-Saharan Africa. We determined the minimum incidence, aetiology and immediate outcome of seizures among neonates admitted to a rural district hospital in Kenya.

Methods

From 1st January 2003 to 31st December 2007, we assessed for seizures all neonates (age 0-28 days) admitted to the Kilifi District Hospital, who were resident in a defined, regularly enumerated study area. The population denominator, the number of live births in the community on 1 July 2005 (the study midpoint) was modelled from the census data.

Results

Seizures were reported in 142/1572 (9.0%) of neonatal admissions. The incidence was 39.5 [95% confidence interval (CI) 26.4-56.7] per 1000 live-births and incidence increased with birth weight. The main diagnoses in neonates with seizures were sepsis in 85 (60%), neonatal encephalopathy in 30 (21%) and meningitis in 21 (15%), but only neonatal encephalopathy and bacterial meningitis were independently associated with seizures. Neonates with seizures had a longer hospitalization [median period 7 days - interquartile range (IQR) 4 to10] -compared to 5 days [IQR 3 to 8] for those without seizures, P = 0.02). Overall, there was no difference in inpatient case fatality between neonates with and without seizures but, when this outcome was stratified by birth weight, it was significantly higher in neonates ≥ 2.5 kg compared to low birth weight neonates [odds ratio 1.59 (95%CI 1.02 to 2.46), P = 0.037]. Up to 13% of the surviving newborn with seizures had neurological abnormalities at discharge.

Conclusion

There is a high incidence of neonatal seizures in this area of Kenya and the most important causes are neonatal encephalopathy and meningitis. The high incidence of neonatal seizures may be a reflection of the quality of the perinatal and postnatal care available to the neonates.