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Diagnosis of Infantile Spasms Too Often Delayed

Parents, doctors may not recognize infantile spasms early enough to prevent brain damage

TUESDAY, Dec. 6, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Many infants with infantile spasms aren’t promptly diagnosed, and that delay can lead to devastating health consequences, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society, held from Dec. 2 to 6 in Houston.

Shaun Hussain, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues surveyed the parents of 100 children who had infantile spasms. Nearly half waited a month or longer before getting an accurate diagnosis.

Only 29 percent of the children were seen by a health care provider who accurately diagnosed them within a week of the spasms’ onset, the researchers found. For some, the delay was several years. Parents’ education levels, household income, insurance, or other factors had no effect on the timing. In some cases, doctors and pediatricians didn’t recognize the condition and discounted parents’ concerns.

“A delay in diagnosis can lead to treatment failure and increase the risk of intellectual disability, autism, lifelong epilepsy, and even death,” Hussain told HealthDay. “Some of these children can be cured, but successful treatment often depends on prompt diagnosis. The delays we observed are simply horrifying and represent a failure of our health care system to address a preventable cause of mental retardation.”

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