John Libbey Eurotext

Are febrile seizures an indication for intermittent benzodiazepine treatment, and if so, in which cases? Volume 16, special issue 1, October 2014


Department of Pediatrics, Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
* Correspondence: Peter Camfield IWK Health Centre, PO 9700, 5850 University Ave, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3K 6R8,

Febrile seizures occur in ∼4% of children. After a first febrile seizure, the risk of recurrence is ∼40%, but excellent studies document that febrile seizures do not cause brain damage or deficits in cognition or behaviour. The risk of subsequent epilepsy is 2-4%. Prolonged febrile seizures are of concern because a child may later develop mesial temporal sclerosis and intractable epilepsy in rare cases. Most prolonged febrile seizures represent the first febrile seizure and cannot be anticipated. A first prolonged febrile seizure does not increase the risk of recurrence, but if there is a recurrence, it is more likely to be prolonged. Prevention of recurrent febrile seizures is difficult. Antipyretics are ineffective. Daily AED treatment is not often justified. Intermittent oral diazepam at the time of illness is not very successful and has significant side effects. The most optimistic study found that the number of subjects required to treat in order to prevent one recurrence was 14. Intermittent clobazam has fewer side effects than diazepam and may be somewhat effective. Rescue benzodiazepines given outside health care facilities may be effective in selected patients to prevent prolonged recurrences, although this has not been proven with rectal diazepam which has been more extensively studied than buccal or nasal midazolam. Currently, we suggest that, for children with febrile seizures, candidates for consideration for rescue benzodiazepines are those with a prolonged febrile seizure or poor access to medical care. It is possible that the use of a rescue benzodiazepine may alleviate severe parental anxiety, but this remains to be established.