Early-onset epileptic encephalopathies and the diagnostic approach to underlying causes.

Early-onset epileptic encephalopathies are one of the most severe early onset epilepsies that can lead to progressive psychomotor impairment. These syndromes result from identifiable primary causes, such as structural, neurodegenerative, metabolic, or genetic defects, and an increasing number of novel genetic causes continue to be uncovered. A typical diagnostic approach includes documentation of anamnesis, determination of seizure semiology, electroencephalography, and neuroimaging. If primary biochemical investigations exclude precipitating conditions, a trial with the administration of a vitaminic compound (pyridoxine, pyridoxal-5-phosphate, or folinic acid) can then be initiated regardless of presumptive seizure causes. Patients with unclear etiologies should be considered for a further workup, which should include an evaluation for inherited metabolic defects and genetic analyses. Targeted next-generation sequencing panels showed a high diagnostic yield in patients with epileptic encephalopathy. Mutations associated with the emergence of epileptic encephalopathies can be identified in a targeted fashion by sequencing the most likely candidate genes. Next-generation sequencing technologies offer hope to a large number of patients with cryptogenic encephalopathies and will eventually lead to new therapeutic strategies and more favorable long-term outcomes.

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