Epilepsy and mental retardation following febrile seizures in childhood

Acta Paediatr Scand. 1989 Mar;78(2):291-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.1989.tb11072.x.


In an unselected group of children who were seen following an initial febrile convulsion, the frequency of subsequent afebrile seizures was 3.5% and of mental retardation 1%. The most common afebrile seizure type was generalized major (86%). About 3/4 of the children who developed afebrile seizures did so by three years and all by five years following the initial febrile seizure. The children with afebrile seizures differed from those without afebrile seizures in the frequency of neonatal abnormality, family history of mental retardation, focal initial febrile convulsions, and delay in psychomotor milestones before the initial febrile seizure. Only about 1/3 of the children who developed afebrile seizures ever had a recurrent febrile convulsion and none had complex recurrent febrile seizures. Half the children with mental retardation had histories of delay in psychomotor milestones prior to the initial febrile seizure, and no child with mental retardation had any seizure longer than five minutes. The administration of daily phenobarbital did not reduce the frequency of epilepsy, in spite of a significant reduction in the incidence of recurrent febrile seizures. There remains no evidence that the prevention of recurrent febrile convulsions significantly decreases the frequency of afebrile seizures or mental retardation.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epilepsy / etiology*
  • Epilepsy / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intellectual Disability / etiology*
  • Intellectual Disability / prevention & control
  • Phenobarbital / administration & dosage
  • Recurrence
  • Seizures, Febrile / complications*
  • Seizures, Febrile / drug therapy


  • Phenobarbital