Febrile Seizures: Treatment and Prognosis


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. F. U. Knudsen at Pediatric Department, Glostrup University Hospital, Glostrup, DK-2600 Denmark.


Summary: Recent epidemiologic data indicate that the vast majority of children with febrile seizures have a normal long-term outcome. A precise knowledge of the short- and long-term outcome with or without treatment, and short- and long-term side effects is an important prerequisite for assessing the various treatment strategies. We focus on the impact of short-term or prophylactic treatment on the short- and long-term outcome of various types of febrile seizures. There is universal agreement that daily prophylaxis with antiepileptic agents should never be used routinely in simple febrile seizures, but only in highly selected cases, if at all. Intermittent diazepam (DZP) prophylaxis at times of fever may or may not reduce the recurrence rate, but it does not appear to improve the long-term outcome as compared with short-term seizure control. The treatment may be used to reduce the recurrence rate for a small arbitrarily defined group with multiple simple febrile seizures, complex febrile seizures, especially focal, prolonged or both, febrile status, and when parental anxiety is severe. However, there is no evidence that treatment of simple febrile seizures can prevent the rare cases of later epilepsy, and many children with complex febrile seizures have a benign long-term outcome, even without treatment. Many prefer a “wait and see” policy. An attractive alternative is to treat new febrile seizures with rectal DZP in solution at seizure onset, given by the parents at home to prevent febrile status. Newer, less well documented short-term strategies include nasal, oral, or rectal administration of other benzodiazepines. Short-term seizure control of febrile status and careful parental counseling are the two most important targets of treatment.