Improving diagnosis of neonatal seizures

Improving diagnosis of neonatal seizures

Baby with EEG pads on head

Seizures in newborn babies are unfortunately very hard to diagnose from clinical observation. This is a critical issue because babies with repeated seizures in the first few weeks of life can suffer brain damage which will cause development disorders as they grow. Dr Ronit Pressler, a senior researcher in Clinical Neurophysiology at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, is determined to tackle this diagnostic challenge.

Recording and analysing a baby’s brainwaves is the key to a sound diagnosis, but most neonatal intensive care units do not have access to full ElectroEncephaloGram (EEG) tests. Technicians and equipment to run amplitude integrated EEG (aEEG) tests are more widely available, but there’s no clear evidence as to which type of test is more accurate and so ultimately improves patient outcomes.

With funding from The Evelyn Trust and the Cambridge Biomedical Research Council, Ronit has launched a randomised clinical trial to generate evidence that will shed light on this issue. The three-year trial is at an early stage, but soon recruitment will begin for up to 140 babies who are at high risk from seizures from neonatal intensive care units in Cambridge, Norwich and Luton. Babies will be assigned at random to a group undergoing either full EEG tests or aEEG. The test results, combined with analysis of the impact of those results on clinical decisions about treatment and the ultimate health outcomes of the babies, will inform the findings of the research project.

“It’s very exciting to be on the point now of launching our clinical trials, which we have called the EAGLET project. We’ve recruited a very talented team so we’re confident that this research will produce valuable evidence and help us to answer some very important questions,” explains Ronit.

Charity Director Rebecca Wood sets out the background to this award. “This grant is the James Bradfield Memorial Award, funded by a group of generous donors. They asked that The Evelyn Trust run a competitive process on their behalf to find a promising project that would move forward the field of childhood epilepsy. A second group who applied also put forward an excellent epilepsy project and The Evelyn Trust funded this from its own income to additionally support the field. The Evelyn Trust’s expert knowledge and systems are ideal for donors who wish to commission health projects, and I am always happy to talk to anyone who wishes to support a particular area of health.”

You can find out more about the work of Dr Pressler and colleagues on the Department of Paediatrics website

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