To estimate the rates of bacterial meningitis and herpes simplex virus (HSV) encephalitis in children presenting with complex febrile seizures.
Health records from 2002 to 2006 of all children 6 months to 6 years with a discharge diagnosis from the Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto, ON) of febrile convulsion, meningitis, or encephalitis were reviewed. Rates of bacterial meningitis and HSV encephalitis in children presenting with complex febrile seizures were calculated.
There were 390 encounters of complex febrile seizures in 366 children. Of these encounters, 75 (19%) were transferred from an outlying hospital. A history of febrile convulsions was noted in 140 (36%). Lumbar puncture was performed in 146 (37%) patients. Six patients (all but one transferred) were diagnosed with bacterial meningitis (all due to Streptococcus pneumoniae). One transferred patient was diagnosed with HSV encephalitis. In patients initially presenting to our emergency department the rates of bacterial meningitis and HSV encephalitis were 0.3% (95% confidence interval, 0.0-1.8) and 0.0% (95% confidence interval, 0.0-1.2), respectively.
Given the low rate of bacterial meningitis and HSV encephalitis in children presenting with complex febrile seizures, routine lumbar puncture in these patients may be unnecessary.