West Syndrome

The term West Syndrome (WS) is often used interchangeably with 'infantile spasms', but these entities are not exactly the same. Infantile spasms refers to a type of seizure/epilepsy, whereas WS specifically indicates the combination of:

  1. Infantile spasms
  2. Hypsarrhythmia (choatic pattern seen on EEG, typical of infantile spasms)
  3. Neurodevelopmental impairment/mental retardation

WS was named in recognition of Dr. James West, who in 1841 published the first description of infantile spasms, having witnessed the disease in his son. In general, the term infantile spasms is preferred over WS because many children may not satisfy the diagnostic criteria for WS, but nevertheless require urgent and aggressive treatment. Moreover a key goal in the management of infantile spasms is to arrest the seizures quickly so that neurodevelopmental impairment never occurs. Similarly, some children with infantile spasms never exhibit hypsarrhythmia. The absence of hypsarrhythmia is thought to be a good sign, but this has not been clearly established.  


Although efforts are made to keep this website correct and up-to-date, we urge caution in interpreting the information you find here. This is in no way a substitute for the advice and care of a pediatric neurologist. Please view the terms of use.

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