Prescribing anticonvulsants is an ineffective way of controlling neonatal seizures, say researchers.
Infants admitted to neonatal intensive care units suffer seizures in 1-2 per cent of cases.
A recent study covering 1990 to 1995 set out to find out which drug phenobarbitol or phenytoin, both traditionally used to control these seizures was more effective.
The study found that neither drug worked particularly well. Of 59 neonates with seizures randomly given either phenobarbitol or phenytoin intravenously, phenobarbitol controlled the seizures in 13 out of 30 babies (43 per cent) and phenytoin controlled 13 out of 29 (45 per cent).
Babies whose seizures were not controlled by one of these drugs were treated with a combination of the two. Combined treatment resulted in seizure control in 57 per cent of cases.
The drugs proved particularly ineffective in those babies with severe seizures. What was clear was that both drugs were equally ineffective for more than half the babies studied (N Engl J Med, 1999; 341: 485-9).