Cognitive impairment is evident early on in preschool children with epilepsy, a recent study has revealed. The findings, published in the journal Epilepsia, are consistent with results of similar studies in older children, and the new research suggests that the age at onset of first seizure is a significant predictor of cognitive impairment.
Researchers from the University of Tampere in Finland reviewed medical data and psychological evaluations for 64 preschool children with active epilepsy in order to determine the frequency of cognitive impairment and the epilepsy-related factors contributing to the impairment. Children in the study group had a mean age of five, with seizure onset between 0 and 75 months.
The study determined cognitive function based on psychological evaluation, parental reports and observations from daycare. In the preschool cohort, 50 per cent of the children displayed normal cognitive function, 22 per cent had mild cognitive impairment, and 28 per cent showed moderate to severe intellectual disability.
The study found that early onset epilepsy is a risk factor for cognitive impairment. “Early intervention programs may help to improve cognitive and psychological outcomes in preschoolers with epilepsy,” said lead researcher Kati Rantanen. “Further prospective research is needed to explore the developmental course of children with epilepsy.”