Benign Neonatal Convulsions

29th October 2018

Benign Neonatal Convulsions (BNC) is a type of epilepsy syndrome that always occurs in young infants. Seizures, or in this case convulsions, will often start to happen between birth up to 28 days old. It’s a relatively uncommon syndrome that affects boys and girls equally.

There are two types of BNC, familial and non-familial. Familial means that someone in the family also experienced BNC as an infant, usually a parent. This is due to a genetic anomaly in chromosomes 8 and 20. Non-familial means that nobody in the infant’s immediate family has experienced BNC.

Symptoms of BNC

Infants with BNC will experience seizures, which can present in a number of ways, including:

  • Jerking head movements.
  • Stiffening of the arms and legs and full body rhythmic jerking (a clonic seizure).
  • May stop breathing for short periods of time (apnoea).
  • Red face and watering eyes.
  • Cycling and punching movements of the limbs.
  • Tonic-clonic seizures. This is rarer and is more likely to occur around the age of 1 month.

The infant should be completely fine despite seizure activity. They should feed with no issues and behave like any other infant. Seizures will most commonly occur when the infant is tired or immediately after waking.

How is BNC diagnosed?

A doctor is likely to make a diagnosis based on a carefully studied history seizures the infant has experienced, along with a detailed family history. Seizures with other symptoms may be may indicate BNC, as other syndromes commonly have other symptoms that affect daily life. Common investigations that may be help to make a diagnosis include blood tests and brain scans, such as a computer tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An EEG might also show some limited results.

BNC Treatment

In many cases, treatment for BNC is not required as the seizures will begin to subside after a few weeks or months and then they completely stop. However, if medication is prescribed it is likely to be carbamazepine or sodium valproate. Other medications may be considered.

Outlook of BNC

As previously mentioned, seizures will often cease completely within a few weeks or sometimes a few months. Infants can develop different types of epilepsy and seizures later in life. This is more common in familial BNC than it is in non-familial. However, in both cases it’s fairly uncommon and most children will recover fully

There are no other negative aspects to BNC and children should develop normally with no intellectual difficulties or behavioural issues.

National Epilepsy Training can help

For more information on Benign Neonatal Convulsions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Call us on 01706 373075 or email