About West Syndrome

Here are some resources that we have found useful as we have tried to gain a better understanding of West Syndrome (i.e., Infantile Spasms) and the implications that it has on a child's development. 

Below are two links to great informational videos:

Q&A on Infantile Spasms

Understanding Infantile Spasms

Here is what an Infantile Spasm looks like

Below is a quick summary of Infantile Spasms taken from the Child Neurology Foundation website on Infantile Spasm Awareness

What is Infantile Spasms?
Infantile spasms is an uncommon epilepsy syndrome that typically begins in infancy. Also known as West syndrome, it was first characterized by Dr. William James West in the mid-19th century as he sought help for his own affected child. Infantile spasms is considered to be a "catastrophic childhood epilepsy" due to the difficulty in controlling its symptoms and the developmental problems that can occur as a result of the condition.

Infantile Spasms typically begins in the first 4 to 8 months of life and is characterized by flexion (bending and jerking) of the trunk (torso) or neck and extremities (arms and legs). An episode can range from a subtle head jerk to a flexion that lasts for a few seconds. Most often, the spasms occur in clusters.

Hypsarrhythmia in Infantile Spasms
Infantile spasms are characterized by hypsarrhythmia (hips-A-'rith-mE-uh), a highly disorganized and chaotic pattern of brain wave abnormality found in an EEG (a diagnostic test of brain electrical activity helpful in diagnosing epilepsy). To explain further, a normal EEG shows clear separation between each signal with a visible pattern, whereas hypsarrythmia in an EEG has no recognizable pattern. Hypsarrythmia, which does not typically occur with other forms of epilepsy, can help to confirm a diagnosis of infantile spasms.

Furthermore, there is a strong correlation between hypsarrhythmia and the cognitive impairment (damage) and developmental delays that are often associated with infantile spasms. That's why an EEG is so important; it helps determine what the underlying disorder is that needs to be treated. A parent who is doing research and suspects their child may be suffering from infantile spasms must demand an EEG from a qualified child neurologist.

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