Distribution of febrile seizure duration and associations with development

Ann Neurol. 2011 Jul;70(1):93-100. doi: 10.1002/ana.22368. Epub 2011 Mar 17.


Objective: In prior studies of febrile seizures (FSs), prolonged FSs were defined, absent empirical evidence, as lasting 10 or 15 minutes or more. We assessed the distribution of FS duration in a cohort with first FSs, and the association between FS duration and baseline characteristics of the children.

Methods: We calculated the observed cumulative probability, S(t), that a FS would last at least t minutes, S(t) = exp(-t/τ). Data were also fit using a model obtained as the sum of 2 exponential distributions (S[t] = αexp[-t/τ(1) ] + [1 - α]exp[-t/τ(2) ]). After assessing the best fit, the cutoff defining long FS was determined. Logistic regression was used to examine associations between long FSs and baseline characteristics, behavior, and development.

Results: In 158 children with a first FS, median duration was 4.0 minutes. Duration of FS was best fit by a 2-component mixture exponential model. Using this model, we identified 1 population that accounts for 82.3% of FSs and has a mean duration of 3.8 minutes (short FS) and a second population that accounts for 17.7% of FSs and has a mean duration of 39.8 minutes (long FS). Long FSs were significantly associated with developmental delay (p = 0.010) and delays and younger age at first FS (p = 0.048).

Interpretation: Like the distribution of afebrile seizure duration in children, the distribution of first FS duration is best modeled by assuming 2 populations. Developmental delay and younger age are associated with prolonged FSs. Our data lend further support to defining 10 minutes as the upper limit for a simple FS.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Child Development* / physiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Developmental Disabilities / epidemiology*
  • Developmental Disabilities / etiology*
  • Developmental Disabilities / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Seizures, Febrile / complications*
  • Seizures, Febrile / epidemiology*
  • Seizures, Febrile / physiopathology
  • Time Factors