Seizures and fever: can we rule out meningitis on clinical grounds alone?

Clin Pediatr (Phila). 1992 Sep;31(9):514-22. doi: 10.1177/000992289203100901.


A study was done of 309 children seen in two ERs with a first seizure and fever to assess whether meningitis could be recognized using readily available clinical information. Among these children, 23 (7%) cases of meningitis were diagnosed. A group of 69 children with seizures and fever but no meningitis served as controls. Signs from ER examinations that discriminated between children with and those without meningitis were: petechiae, nuchal rigidity, coma, persistent drowsiness, ongoing convulsions, and paresis or paralysis; 21 cases were thus identified. Two children with a suspicious history but none of these signs proved to have meningitis. Children whose seizures showed no complex features and whose febrile illness revealed no suspicious features did not have meningitis. Our results indicate that based on available clinical data, meningitis can be ruled out in children presenting with seizures and fever; thus, there is no need for routine investigation of cerebrospinal fluid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood Sedimentation
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / cytology
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / microbiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Fever / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Male
  • Meningitis / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Meningitis / complications
  • Meningitis / diagnosis*
  • Probability
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Seizures / etiology*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spinal Puncture