Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division

How serious are childhood seizures brought on by GI disease?

Fever-associated seizures in infancy and early childhood are relatively common, happening in 2 to 4 percent of children in the U.S.  While potentially terrifying for the parents, most of these seizures are not serious and the kids’ prognosis is good.  Less is known about other types of childhood seizures, although it’s generally thought that non-febrile seizures may be a marker of epilepsy.  To learn more about non-febrile seizures associated with acute illnesses, VIDD affiliate investigator Dr. Danielle Zerr and colleagues looked at the risk of recurrences in children with first-time seizures associated with a non-febrile ailment.

The researchers studied 117 children aged 6 months to 6 years who checked into the emergency room of Seattle Children’s Hospital with a first-time seizure that wasn’t associated with other known medical conditions such as a trauma or meningitis.  They categorized the children into three groups: those with fevers, those with an illness but no fever, and those with no illness.  They collected stool and blood samples and tested them for a variety of GI and respiratory viruses, and followed up with the children’s parents to learn more about their illnesses and to see if seizures recurred in the following months.  The researchers found that seizures associated with GI disease had the lowest risk of recurrence, lower than seizures associated with respiratory disease or those with no known cause.  Although the reason for GI disease-related seizures remains unclear, these results indicate that the prognosis for these children is good.

Martin ET, Kerin T, Christakis DA, Blume HK, Gospe SM Jr, Vinje J, Bowen MD, Gentsch J, Zerr DM.  Redefining outcome of first seizures by acute illness.  Pediatrics. 2010 Dec;126(6):e1477-84.