Neonatal seizures in a rural Kenyan District Hospital: aetiology, incidence and outcome of hospitalization
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 >or= 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.