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Childhood Epilepsy, Febrile Seizures and Subsequent Risk of ADHD

Danish national registers on both somatic and psychiatric disorders contributes with new epidemiological aspects on seizure disorders in childhood and long term consequences. This study focus on febrile seizure and epilepsy in childhood and subsequent risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, while taking the socioeconomic and perinatal risk factors as well as family history of neurologic and psychiatric disorders into account.

2016.11.16 | Annette Bang Rasmussen

Elin Næs Beck, MD student, AU, Research Year Student, NCRR, AU

About the study

Epilepsy and febrile seizure are both common neurologic childhood disorders affecting many children and families. Previous studies in this field have demonstrated an association between seizures in childhood and morbidity later in life including a number of psychiatric disorders. Most studies on this topic have been limited by retrospective designs and small sample sizes.

Our aim was to investigate the association between epilepsy and/or febrile seizure in childhood and risk of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), in a nationwide cohort including all children born in Denmark from 1990 to 2007. Our results were adjusted for socioeconomic status, perinatal risk factors and family risk factors such as prior diagnoses of neurologic or psychiatric diseases.

Our study was based on data from Danish national registers and included almost 1 million children in the cohort.  We found a strong association between epilepsy, and to a lesser extent febrile seizure and subsequent development of ADHD.

Possible explanations of this association include a shared pathogenesis and early neurodevelopmental pathways. Future studies are required to assess the bidirectional relationship between the genetically based risk factors and environmental influence of comorbid ADHD in children with seizures.

The article Childhood Epilepsy, Febrile Seizures and Subsequent Risk of ADHD was published in Pediatrics August 2016, Volume 138, number 2.

Søren Dalsgaard, Jakob Christensen, Liselotte Petersen and Janne Christensen contributed to the study.

Facts about the study

  • We used data from Statistics Denmark including Danish National Hospital Register and the Danish Psychiatric Central Register
  • We included children born 1.1.1990 to 31.12.2007 and follow up ended 31.12.2012
  • We included more than 900.000 children in the study corresponding to almost 10.000.000 person years. 
  • 13.500 children received a diagnosis of epilepsy and more than 33.000 a diagnosis of febrile seizures.
  • More than 21.000 were diagnosed with ADHD during follow up.
  • We found a strong association between childhood epilepsy and febrile seizures and subsequent ADHD, even after adjusting for perinatal and socioeconomic risk factors, as well as family history of neurologic and psychiatric disorders.

Further information

Further information

Elin Næs Beck, MD student, Aarhus University, Research Year Student at National Centre for Register-based Research, Aarhus University, E-mail: elin@naesbeck.dk  

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