Subtle movement may signal a serious health condition in babies

WELLSVILLE, Kan. (WDAF) -- A couple from Wellsville, Kansas noticed subtle, unusual movements in their baby. It turned out to be a serious condition that's often misdiagnosed.

The first sign came when Judd Elliott was just 2 months old.

"He would kinda get rigid -- hold his breath. It would only last for a few seconds," said his mother, Darla Elliott.

The Elliotts were told that Judd, who's now 20 months old, had reflux.

"I kick myself every day that I didn't pursue it further, but I thought well, they know what they're doing," said Elliott.

When Judd was 8 months old, his head started suddenly dropping. That's when they got the correct diagnosis. He has a rare condition called epileptic spasms or infantile spasms. They tend to increase in frequency and severity over time.

"Very, very brief, but tend to happen in clusters meaning that it's gonna be one, and a few seconds later another one happens, and another a few seconds later," said Dr. Ahmed Abdelmoity, a neurologist with Children's Mercy Hospital.

See photos of Judd and his family:

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20-month-old Judd Elliott, diagnosed with tuberous sclerosis
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20-month-old Judd Elliott, diagnosed with tuberous sclerosis

A couple from Wellsville, Kansas noticed subtle, unusual movements in their baby. It turned out to be a serious condition that's often misdiagnosed.

The first sign came when Judd Elliott was just 2 months old.

"He would kinda get rigid -- hold his breath. It would only last for a few seconds," said his mother, Darla Elliott.

The Elliotts were told that Judd, who's now 20 months old, had reflux.

"I kick myself every day that I didn't pursue it further, but I thought well, they know what they're doing," said Elliott.

When Judd was 8 months old, his head started suddenly dropping. That's when they got the correct diagnosis. He has a rare condition called epileptic spasms or infantile spasms. They tend to increase in frequency and severity over time.

"Very, very brief, but tend to happen in clusters meaning that it's gonna be one, and a few seconds later another one happens, and another a few seconds later," said Dr. Ahmed Abdelmoity, a neurologist with Children's Mercy Hospital.

He showed us an EEG of the storm taking place in the brain. Compare it to a normal EEG and you can understand how the spasms hinder a child's development. They can cause long-term damage to the brain if left untreated.

"That's why timing is a very, very important thing here in initiating the proper treatment," said Dr. Abdelmoity.

He said the spasms are a sign of some underlying problem in the brain. Testing found Judd has tumors there. It's a condition called tuberous sclerosis that's now being monitored closely. As for the spasms, two medications have stopped them.

"His development has really taken off since then," Elliott said.

She said if you see movements in your child that seem abnormal, don't hesitate to find out if they could be epileptic spasms.

Children's Mercy sees about 20 new cases a year of the spasms. Most are in babies between six and 18 months old. But there are reports of people as old as 37 being diagnosed.

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He showed us an EEG of the storm taking place in the brain. Compare it to a normal EEG and you can understand how the spasms hinder a child's development. They can cause long-term damage to the brain if left untreated.

"That's why timing is a very, very important thing here in initiating the proper treatment," said Dr. Abdelmoity.

He said the spasms are a sign of some underlying problem in the brain. Testing found Judd has tumors there. It's a condition called tuberous sclerosis that's now being monitored closely. As for the spasms, two medications have stopped them.

"His development has really taken off since then," Elliott said.

She said if you see movements in your child that seem abnormal, don't hesitate to find out if they could be epileptic spasms.

Children's Mercy sees about 20 new cases a year of the spasms. Most are in babies between six and 18 months old. But there are reports of people as old as 37 being diagnosed.

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