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Practice variability in the management of complex febrile seizures by pediatric emergency physicians and fellows

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 May 2015

Justin W. Sales*
Division of Emergency Medicine, Phoenix Children's Hospital, Phoenix, AZ
Blake Bulloch
Division of Emergency Medicine, Phoenix Children's Hospital, Phoenix, AZ
Mark A. Hostetler
Division of Emergency Medicine, Phoenix Children's Hospital, Phoenix, AZ
Division of Emergency Medicine, Phoenix Children's Hospital, 1919 E. Thomas Road, Phoenix, AZ 85016;


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Febrile seizures are the most common type of childhood seizure and are categorized as simple or complex. Complex febrile seizures (CFSs) are defined as events that are focal, prolonged (> 15 minutes), or recurrent. The management of CFS is poorly defined. The objective of this study was to determine the degree of variability in the emergency department evaluation of children with CFSs.


An online survey questionnaire was developed and sent to physicians identified via the listserv of the emergency medicine section of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the pediatric emergency medicine discussion list. The questionnaire consisted of five hypothetical case vignettes describing children under 5 years of age presenting with a CFS. Following review of the first four vignettes, participants were asked if they would (1) obtain blood and urine for evaluation; (2) perform a lumbar puncture; (3) perform neurologic imaging while the child was in the emergency department; (4) admit the child to the hospital; or (5) discharge with follow-up as an outpatient, with either the primary care provider or a neurologist. The final vignette determined if antiepileptic medication would be prescribed by the physician on discharge.


Of the 353 physicians who participated, 293 (83%) were pediatric emergency medicine attending physicians and 60 (17%) were pediatric emergency medicine fellows. Overall, 54% of participants indicated that they would obtain blood for evaluation, 62% would obtain urine, 34% would perform a lumbar puncture, and 36% would perform neurologic imaging. The overall hypothetical admission rate for the case vignettes was 42%.


This study indicates that extensive variability exists in the emergency department approach to patients with CFS. Our findings suggest that optimal management for CFS remains unclear and support the potential benefit of future prospective studies on this subject.

Original Research • Recherche originale
Copyright © Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians 2011



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