Long-term outcomes after new onset seizure in children living with HIV: A cohort study

Gretchen L. Birbeck*, Musaku Mwenechanya, Ifunanya Ume-Ezeoke, Manoj Mathews, Christopher M. Bositis, Lisa Kalungwana, David Bearden, Melissa Elafros, Harris A. Gelbard, William H. Theodore, Igor J. Koralnik, Jason F. Okulicz, Brent A. Johnson, Namwiya Musonda, Omar K. Siddiqi, Michael J. Potchen, Izukanji Sikazwe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To determine the long-term outcomes, including mortality and recurrent seizures, among children living with HIV (CLWH) who present with new onset seizure. Methods: Zambian CLWH and new onset seizure were enrolled prospectively to determine the risk of and risk factors for recurrent seizures. Demographic data, clinical profiles, index seizure etiology, and 30-day mortality outcomes were previously reported. After discharge, children were followed quarterly to identify recurrent seizures and death. Given the high risk of early death, risk factors for recurrent seizure were evaluated using a model that adjusted for mortality. Results: Among 73 children enrolled, 28 died (38%), 22 within 30-days of the index seizure. Median follow-up was 533 days (IQR 18–957) with 5% (4/73) lost to follow-up. Seizure recurrence was 19% among the entire cohort. Among children surviving at least 30-days after the index seizure, 27% had a recurrent seizure. Median time from index seizure to recurrent seizure was 161 days (IQR 86–269). Central nervous system opportunistic infection (CNS OI), as the cause for the index seizure was protective against recurrent seizures and higher functional status was a risk factor for seizure recurrence. Significance: Among CLWH presenting with new onset seizure, mortality risks remain elevated beyond the acute illness period. Recurrent seizures are common and are more likely in children with higher level of functioning even after adjusting for the outcome of death. Newer antiseizure medications appropriate for co-usage with antiretroviral therapies are needed for the care of these children. CNS OI may represent a potentially reversible provocation for the index seizure, while seizures in high functioning CLWH without a CNS OI may be the result of a prior brain injury or susceptibility to seizures unrelated to HIV and thus represent an ongoing predisposition to seizures. Plain Language Summary: This study followed CLWH who experienced a new onset seizure to find out how many go on to have more seizures and identify any patient characteristics associated with having more seizures. The study found that mortality rates continue to be high beyond the acute clinical presentation with new onset seizure. Children with a CNS OI causing the new onset seizure had a lower risk of later seizures, possibly because the trigger for the seizure can be treated. In contrast, high functioning children without a CNS OI were at higher risk of future seizures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)750-757
Number of pages8
JournalEpilepsia Open
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Lansky score
  • central nervous system opportunistic infection
  • epilepsy
  • functional status
  • orphan
  • seizure recurrence


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