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Infantile Spasms (West Syndrome)

Topic Overview

Infantile spasms (West syndrome) are muscle spasms that affect a child's head, torso, and limbs. Infantile spasms usually begin before the age of 6 months.

  • Most children with infantile spasms have below-normal intelligence. More than half have severe disabilities.
  • Although an exact cause cannot always be found, infantile spasms may be caused by diseases, injuries, or infections that occurred before or during birth.

Infantile spasms are treated with adrenocorticotropic hormone (Acthar) or prednisone. They generally do not respond well to medicines used to treat epilepsy. Vigabatrin (Sabril) may also be an effective treatment for infantile spasms especially when they are caused by a disease called tuberous sclerosis.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Steven C. Schachter, MD - Neurology
Last Revised August 26, 2011

Last Revised: August 26, 2011

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