Seizure Discovery: New Evidence in Toddler Deaths While Sleeping

BEL AIR, Maryland – The sudden and tragic death of 17-month-old Hayden Fell during his sleep has shed light on a potential link between seizures and unexplained deaths in young children. Hayden’s parents discovered him unresponsive the morning after a seemingly normal bedtime. The family’s crib cam recorded the entire night and captured a possible clue to his untimely passing.

Researchers at NYU Langone Health reported that seizures during sleep could be a potential cause of sudden unexplained death in childhood (SUDC). The study analyzed home monitoring video that documented the deaths of seven sleeping toddlers. This discovery is crucial in understanding a condition that claims over 400 young lives in the U.S. each year.

Similar to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), SUDC occurs in children after their first birthday. Little is known about SUDC, but scientists have long suspected seizures may play a role. The study at NYU offers the first direct evidence of a seizure link, as it showed that some toddlers died shortly after being recorded having a brief seizure during sleep.

The recordings cannot conclusively prove that fevers triggered the seizures, as several toddlers had signs of mild infections. This raises the question of how to differentiate between harmless febrile seizures and those that may indicate a more serious underlying issue. Further research will be needed to identify children at risk and potentially change their outcomes.

SUDC claims over 400 lives a year in the U.S., most of which occur during sleep, with about 250 deaths a year in 1- to 4-year-olds. While SIDS receives more public attention and research funding, SUDC happens to older children, leaving many families unaware of the risk until tragedy strikes.

Hayden, who experienced his first seizure shortly before his first birthday and several others triggered by mild illnesses, was the first child in his family to pass from SUDC. Additional studies have also identified possible genetic links to SUDC, shedding light on potential underlying causes of these unexplained deaths. The search for answers continues as researchers aim to understand and prevent the tragic loss of young lives in the future.