Experts have spent years investigating sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and now, researchers at NYU may have pinpointed a cause in a recent study. The findings suggest that brief seizures, which involve muscle spasms, might be a key factor in these heartbreaking fatalities that impact thousands of families across the nation annually.
“Our study, although small, offers the first direct evidence that seizures may be responsible for some sudden deaths in children, which are usually unwitnessed during sleep,” said Dr. Laura Gould, the study’s lead researcher.
SIDS predominantly affects infants under 6 months old, and these deaths generally happen during sleep. Among older children, a similar, unexplained phenomenon is known as sudden unexplained death in children (SUDC).
After the loss of her daughter Maria to SUDC in 1997, who was only 15 months old, Dr. Gould played a pivotal role in founding the SUDC Registry and Research Collaborative at NYU Langone.
Since then, her research team at New York University (NYU) has analyzed over 300 SUDC cases. This included a review of medical records and video recordings of infants sleeping, as well as seven instances in which seizures were likely the cause of death.
These videos revealed that the convulsions typically lasted for under 60 seconds, and tragically, these incidents occurred within a half hour before the child’s death.
So, Dr. Orrin Devinsky, the study’s senior investigator, claimed that convulsive seizures might be the “smoking gun” that experts have been searching for to figure out these children’s deaths.
“Studying this phenomenon may also provide critical insight into many other deaths, including those from SIDS and epilepsy,” Dr. Devinsky added.
In the past, researchers have observed a link between seizures and SUDC, discovering that individuals who suffered from febrile seizures– or those occurring with a fever– had a tenfold increased risk of sudden and unexpected death.