Using age-appropriate prolactin levels to diagnose children with seizures in the emergency department

Acad Emerg Med. 1997 Mar;4(3):202-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.1997.tb03741.x.


Objective: To assess the utility of serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) prolactin levels for identifying children who have experienced seizures.

Methods: A prospective cohort study was performed in a pediatric ED at an urban children's hospital. A convenience sample of children underwent blood and CSF analyses in the ED over a 2-year period.

Results: Thirty-five children (aged 3 months-15 years) with generalized tonic-clonic seizures and 48 ill control patients were studied. Both groups included febrile and afebrile patients. The patient characteristics in the seizure and control groups were similar with respect to age, fever, current medications, and blood, urine, and CSF cultures. When serum prolactin levels were assigned age-adjusted dichotomous values of "elevated" or "normal," the rates of elevation between the seizure and control patients were different (p < 0.001). The positive and negative predictive values of these age-adjusted levels were 68% (95% CI 47-85%) and 76% (95% CI 61-87%), respectively. The mean CSF prolactin levels of the seizure and control groups were not significantly different. In addition, there was no single threshold CSF prolactin level that could delineate seizure patients from control patients.

Conclusions: Age-adjusted serum prolactin levels are useful only as an adjunct in the prospective evaluation of the individual pediatric patient for epileptic seizure activity. CSF prolactin levels are not useful in the diagnosis of generalized seizures in children in the acute care setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aging / blood
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Prolactin / blood*
  • Prolactin / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reference Values
  • Seizures / blood
  • Seizures / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Seizures / diagnosis*


  • Prolactin