Current understanding of febrile seizures and their long-term outcomes

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2020 Nov;62(11):1245-1249. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.14642. Epub 2020 Aug 3.


In this paper we reframe febrile seizures, which are viewed as a symptom of an underlying brain disorder. The general observation is that a small cohort of children will develop febrile seizures (2-5% in the West), while the greater majority will not. This suggests that the brain that generates a seizure, in an often-mild febrile context, differs in some ways from the brain that does not. While the underlying brain disorder appears to have no significant adverse implication in the majority of children with febrile seizures, serious long-term outcomes (cognitive and neuropsychiatric) have been recently reported, including sudden death. These adverse events likely reflect the underlying intrinsic brain pathology, as yet undefined, of which febrile seizures are purely a manifestation and not the primary cause. A complex interaction between brain-genetics-epigenetics-early environment is likely at play. In view of this emerging data, it is time to review whether febrile seizures are a single entity, with a new and multidimensional approach needed to help with predicting outcome. WHAT THIS PAPER ADDS: A febrile seizure is due to a brain's aberrant response to high temperature. Problems in a small group of children are now being identified later in life. There is no clear correlation between duration or other characteristics of febrile seizures and subsequent mesial temporal sclerosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Diseases* / complications
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / etiology
  • Epilepsy* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mental Disorders* / etiology
  • Seizures, Febrile* / complications
  • Seizures, Febrile* / etiology
  • Seizures, Febrile* / physiopathology