Epileptic encephalopathies with myoclonic seizures in infants and children (severe myoclonic epilepsy and myoclonic-astatic epilepsy).J Clin Neurophysiol. 2003 Nov-Dec; 20(6):449-61.JC
Myoclonic attacks are not characteristic of a specific syndrome. In infancy and early childhood, they are often observed in the context of syndromes that are associated with other types of seizures and with cognitive impairment but no obvious brain lesion. Characterization of the associated seizures and age of expression allows inclusion of a number of cases in two main subgroups: severe myoclonic epilepsy (SME, or Dravet syndrome) and myoclonic-astatic epilepsy (MAE). Severe myoclonic epilepsy is an epileptic encephalopathy with invariably poor outcome in which myoclonic seizures, though frequently observed, may be absent altogether in some children. Prolonged and repeated febrile and afebrile convulsive seizures starting in infancy are the main feature and are probably causally related to cognitive decline. One third of children harbor mutation of the SCN1A gene, but the genetics of SME is probably more complex than expected with simple monogenic disorders. Treatment is usually disappointing. Myoclonic-astatic epilepsy is perhaps more a conceptual category of idiopathic myoclonic epilepsy than a discrete syndrome. Childhood-onset myoclonic-astatic attacks are the characteristic seizures associated in most with episodes of nonconvulsive status and generalized tonic-clonic seizures. Outcome is unpredictable. Either remission within a few years with normal cognition or long-lasting intractability with cognitive impairment is possible. Likewise, the effectiveness of antiepileptic drugs is variable. A number of cases of myoclonic epilepsies in infancy and early childhood, however, remain unclassified, and intermediate forms between the different syndromes exist. They must be distinguished from other syndromes with frequent brief attacks and repeated falls, especially the Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. This differentiation is often difficult and may require extensive neurophysiologic studies.