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West syndrome

It is an infantile epilepsy syndrome that it is manifested through infantile spasms up to the age of 1 or 2 years old. The incidence of this syndrome affects to 1 in 4.000 - 6.000 babies born alive, being boys more frequent than girls.

The syndrome is called after an English doctor, William James West, who first described the condition in his own four month old son in 1841. After months of observation, and being aware of the lack of drugs to provide him, he sent a SOS letter to the British magazine «The Lancet», world leader magazine specialist in oncology, neurology and infectious diseases.

It is an easily diagnosed syndrome due to the age it comes, and because of the type of spasms that can be detected.




  • Infantile spasms:  babies will suddenly bend frontward at the waist and the arms, legs and body get stiff in repetitive series. With selected infants they might bob their heads, or arch theirbacks, or cross arms across their body as if they are embracing themselves. The spasms last only several seconds and some babies have dozens of these spasms in a day. These spasms more frequently occur after the baby wakes up in the morning or after a nap.
  • Mental retardation or psychomotor regression.





The best treatment mainly consists of lessening the convulsion with the least drug dependence.

To start off, the first drug choice is vigabatrin (its use requires a regular retina control under the risk of optic nerve atrophy. As an alternative to this drug, there are other infantile epileptic medicaments. However, most of the patients develop in subsequent epilepsy and these are hard-to-treat cases.