Prolonged febrile seizures cause reversible reductions in white matter integrity

Neuroimage Clin. 2013 Oct 24:3:515-21. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2013.10.010. eCollection 2013.


Prolonged febrile seizures (PFS) are the commonest cause of childhood status epilepticus and are believed to carry a risk of neuronal damage, in particular to the mesial temporal lobe. This study was designed to determine: i) the effect of prolonged febrile seizures on white matter and ii) the temporal evolution of any changes seen. 33 children were recruited 1 month following PFS and underwent diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) with repeat imaging at 6 and 12 months after the original episode of PFS. 18 age-matched healthy control subjects underwent similar investigations at a single time point. Tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) was used to compare fractional anisotropy (FA), mean diffusivity (MD), axial diffusivity (AD) and radial diffusivity (RD) between patients and controls on a voxel-wise basis within the white matter skeleton. Widespread reductions in FA along multiple white matter tracts were found at 1 and 6 months post-PFS, but these had resolved at 12 months. At one month post-PFS the main changes seen were reductions in AD but at 6 months these had predominantly changed to increases in RD. These widespread white matter changes have not previously been noted following PFS. There are many possible explanations, but one plausible hypothesis is that this represents a temporary halting of normal white matter development caused by the seizure, that then resumes and normalises in the majority of children.

Keywords: Diffusion tensor imaging; Epilepsy; Febrile status epilepticus; TBSS.