Distribution of febrile seizure duration and associations with development

Dale C. Hesdorffer*, Emma K.T. Benn, Emilia Bagiella, Douglas Nordli, John Pellock, Veronica Hinton, Shlomo Shinnar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Objective: In prior studies of febrile seizures (FSs), prolonged FSs were defined, absent empirical evidence, as lasting 10 or 15 minutes or more. We assessed the distribution of FS duration in a cohort with first FSs, and the association between FS duration and baseline characteristics of the children. Methods: We calculated the observed cumulative probability, S(t), that a FS would last at least t minutes, S(t) = exp(-t/t). Data were also fit using a model obtained as the sum of 2 exponential distributions (S[t] = αexp[-t/t1] + [1 - α]exp[-t/t2]). After assessing the best fit, the cutoff defining long FS was determined. Logistic regression was used to examine associations between long FSs and baseline characteristics, behavior, and development. Results: In 158 children with a first FS, median duration was 4.0 minutes. Duration of FS was best fit by a 2-component mixture exponential model. Using this model, we identified 1 population that accounts for 82.3% of FSs and has a mean duration of 3.8 minutes (short FS) and a second population that accounts for 17.7% of FSs and has a mean duration of 39.8 minutes (long FS). Long FSs were significantly associated with developmental delay (p = 0.010) and delays and younger age at first FS (p = 0.048). Interpretation: Like the distribution of afebrile seizure duration in children, the distribution of first FS duration is best modeled by assuming 2 populations. Developmental delay and younger age are associated with prolonged FSs. Our data lend further support to defining 10 minutes as the upper limit for a simple FS. ANN NEUROL 2011

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-100
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology


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