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Brain. 2003 Nov;126(Pt 11):2551-7. Epub 2003 Aug 22.

Hippocampal abnormalities after prolonged febrile convulsion: a longitudinal MRI study.

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  • 1Neurosciences Unit, Institute of Child Health, University College London, UK.


Mesial temporal sclerosis (MTS) is the most common lesion in patients who require epilepsy surgery, and approximately 50% of patients with MTS have a history of prolonged febrile convulsion (PFC) in childhood. The latter led to the hypothesis that convulsive status epilepticus, including PFC, can cause MTS. Our recently published data on children investigated within 5 days of a PFC showed that children investigated by MRI within 48 h of a PFC had large hippocampal volumes and prolongation of T2 relaxation time. Patients investigated >48 h from a PFC had large hippocampal volumes and normal T2 relaxation time. These data are strongly suggestive of hippocampal oedema that is resolving within 5 days of a PFC, but do not exclude the possibility of a pre-existing hippocampal lesion. Fourteen children from the original study had follow-up investigations carried out 4-8 months after the acute investigations. Of the 14 patients, four have had further seizures. Two had short febrile convulsions, one had PFC and one had non-febrile seizures. There was a significant reduction in hippocampal volume and T2 relaxation time between the first and second investigations, and there is now no difference in hippocampal volume or T2 relaxation time in patients compared with a control population. Moreover, there is a significant increase in hippocampal volume asymmetry in patients at follow-up when compared with initial data. Five out of 14 patients had asymmetry outside the 95th percentile for control subjects and, of these, three had one hippocampal volume outside the lower 95% prediction limit for control subjects. A reduction in hippocampal volume or T2 relaxation time, into or below the normal range between the first and second scans, indicates that the earlier findings are temporary and are strongly suggestive of hippocampal oedema as the abnormality in the initial investigations. The change in hippocampal symmetry in the patient group is consistent with injury and neuronal loss associated with a PFC, especially in the three individuals who now have a single small hippocampus. However, as there is no T2 relaxation time abnormality, the hippocampi do not meet the criteria for MTS. There may be a lag period of several years between a PFC and the onset of epilepsy, and therefore some of these patients may be developing MTS. Alternatively, the asymmetry could represent return (post-acute oedema) to a pre-existing hippocampal abnormality similar to that identified in family members of patients with MTS and a history of PFC.

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