Purpose of the study: To determine in children the proportion and characteristics of epilepsy associated with cerebral palsy, learning difficulties and language and communication difficulties in a specific population of two special schools.
Basic procedures: Retrospective review of case notes for 142 children in two special schools (school A and school B) in Newcastle, UK.
Main findings: School A had more children with learning difficulties (X2 = 32.41, p < 0.01) and active epilepsy (X2 = 3.03, p=0.08) than school B. There were more children with cerebral palsy (X2 = 9.56, p < 0.01) and language and communication problems (X2 = 4.25, p = 0.03) at school B compared to school A. Active epilepsy is significantly more common in children with cerebral palsy (X2 = 7.58, p = 0.01). All children with cerebral palsy and learning difficulties had epilepsy (n = 6). Although not statistically significant, those children who developed epilepsy within the first 24 hours of life were more likely to have cerebral palsy than those who developed epilepsy later in life (X2 = 3.10, p = 0.08). Those children with cerebral palsy tended to have a lower birth weight (t = 3.15, p < 0.01) and a shorter gestation (t = 3.17, p < 0.01) than children without cerebral palsy.
Principal conclusions: The data supports evidence from previous studies, demonstrating that epilepsy commonly accompanies cerebral palsy, thus complicating this difficult chronic condition. We show an association between both low birth weight and gestational age, and early age of onset of seizures, in children with cerebral palsy. This illustrates the importance, in these children, of past medical history from birth to determine risk factors for epilepsy later in life.