Numerous studies have shown a strong link to heightened risks of birth defects when pregnant women take Zofran. These birth defects can vary greatly, from heart malformations, cranial malformations, clubfoot, webbed toes, and more. Seizures are a common condition of some of the birth defects and disorders caused by Zofran, and have the potential to greatly affect a child’s life.
What Are Seizures?
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, a seizure occurs when a sudden charge of electrical activity hits the brain. This activity is a result of the chemical changes in the nerve cells. When a seizure occurs, the baby may roll his/her eyes, twitch and jerk, or stiffen their limbs. Sometimes, the baby may stare blankly into space, followed by rapid blinking. In other instances, an infant may gag, vomit, sweat, and have spasms.
It’s important to note that a seizure is not a disease or birth defect. Instead, it’s a condition that can be caused by birth defects, such as brain damage, head malformation, heart abnormalities, congenital issues, and more.
Seizures and Medications
Per Johns Hopkins Medicine, taking certain medications while pregnant has the ability to cause infant seizures. Although there is no clear-cut answer as to which person will be affected while taking medications when pregnant, numerous studies have indicated that taking Zofran poses a heightened risk of an unborn infant developing birth defects, which can lead to possible seizures.
Zofran and Serotonin Syndrome
A March 2013 study on Zofran and pregnant women, performed by the FDA, linked taking Zofran to serotonin syndrome, an extremely dangerous medical condition that occurs when someone takes a drug that causes the brain’s serotonin level to increase.
Not only are unborn infants at risk, but serotonin syndrome can be life-threatening to mothers as well. Symptoms include chronic seizures, rapid heartbeat, diarrhea, shivering, loss of consciousness, agitation, and confusion.
Zofran and Cerebral Palsy
Taking Zofran while pregnant is also linked to a heightened risk of an infant developing cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy, a congenital disorder marked by loss of muscle movement, muscle tone, and posture, can frequently cause seizures.
Treatment for Infants with Seizures
There are a number of different ways in which physicians treat infants with seizures, which depend on the frequency and severity of the disorder. In some instances, babies may be given anticonvulsant medications.
Some babies may be put on the ketogenic diet when they older, which consists of consuming a diet high in fats, such as mayonnaise or butter. The theory behind the ketogenic diet is that when a child’s diet is increased in fat and decreased in carbohydrates, the body will release ketones, a type of blood chemicals in the system. Ketones have been shown to reduce seizures.
In extreme cases, the frequency are so strong and severe that surgery is the only option. Young children who undergo surgery are usually have seizures so severe that it affects the quality of their lives. Surgery for seizures, however, are often invasive, and can consist of a hemispherectomy, in which half of the brain is removed and disabled in order to reduce seizures.
Another form of surgery is removing the portion of the temporal lobe that’s responsible for causing seizures. The University of Iowa’s Hospital for Children suggests that infants have a better chance of success after surgery, but on the other hand, babies have a higher mortality rate when going through the procedure when compared to older children.
Long-Term Outlook for Infants with Seizures
The prognosis for infants with seizures will depend on various different factors, including:
- The results of any diagnostic testing done (MRI, CT scan, etc.)
- How severe the seizures
- How well the infant responds to treatment
- If neurological problems also exist
- The age the seizures began
The later seizures start in childhood, the better the chances of a better prognosis. Likewise, the more favorable a patient responds to treatment, the better the long-term outlook.
If You Took Zofran During Pregnancy
If you took Zofran while pregnant and your infant now has seizures or birth defects, you have the legal right to file for damages against the responsible party. GlaxoSmithKline, the company that makes Zofran, has been promoting the medication as off-label use for morning sickness even though the drug is only intended for cancer patients.
As a result, GlaxoSmithKline is now facing numerous Zofran lawsuits from women who were never informed of the risks associated with the medication while pregnant.