Do All Children Who Present With a Complex Febrile Seizure Need a Lumbar Puncture?

Ann Emerg Med. 2017 Jul;70(1):52-62.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2016.11.024. Epub 2017 Mar 2.


Study objective: We assess the prevalences of bacterial meningitis and herpes simplex virus meningoencephalitis (HSV-ME) in children with a complex febrile seizure and determine these prevalences in the subgroup of children with a clinical examination result not suggestive of meningitis or encephalitis.

Methods: This multicenter retrospective study was conducted in 7 pediatric emergency departments (EDs) in the region of Paris, France. Visits of patients aged 6 months to 5 years for a complex febrile seizure from January 2007 to December 2011 were analyzed. We defined a subgroup of patients whose clinical examination result was not suggestive of meningitis or encephalitis. Bacterial meningitis and HSV-ME were sequentially sought for by analyzing bacteriologic and viral data at the visit, looking for data from a second visit to the hospital after the index visit, and telephoning the child's parents.

Results: From a total of 1,183,487 visits in the 7 pediatric EDs, 839 patients presented for a complex febrile seizure, of whom 260 (31.0%) had a lumbar puncture. The outcomes bacterial meningitis and HSV-ME were ascertainable for 715 (85%) and 657 (78.3%) visits, respectively, and we found 5 cases of bacterial meningitis (0.7% [95% confidence interval [CI] 0.2% to 1.6%]) and no HSV-ME (0% [95% CI 0% to 0.6%]). Among the 630 visits of children with a clinical examination result not suggesting meningitis or encephalitis, we found no bacterial meningitis (0% [95% CI 0% to 0.7%]) and no HSV-ME (0% [95% CI 0% to 0.8%]).

Conclusion: In children with a complex febrile seizure, bacterial meningitis and HSV-ME are unexpected events when the clinical examination after complex febrile seizure is not suggestive of meningitis or encephalitis.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Service, Hospital* / economics
  • Emergency Service, Hospital* / organization & administration
  • Encephalitis, Herpes Simplex / diagnosis*
  • Encephalitis, Herpes Simplex / epidemiology
  • Female
  • France
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Meningitis, Bacterial / diagnosis*
  • Meningitis, Bacterial / epidemiology
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seizures, Febrile / diagnosis*
  • Seizures, Febrile / epidemiology
  • Spinal Puncture / statistics & numerical data*
  • Unnecessary Procedures