Lack of efficacy of phenytoin in children presenting with febrile status epilepticus

Salima Ismail, Arielle Lévy, Helena Tikkanen, Marcel Sévère, Frank Wolters, Lionel Carmant*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)



Fever is the most common precipitant of status epilepticus in children. Animal models suggest that only γ-aminobutyric acidic drugs are effective in the treatment of febrile seizures, but there is limited clinical evidence to support this.


The aim of this study was to determine the efficacy of phenytoin, a sodium channel blocker, in the treatment of febrile status epilepticus in children.


This study is a retrospective chart review of 56 children (62 episodes) who presented to our emergency department with febrile status epilepticus and received phenytoin. The clinical parameters were evaluated by reviewing the charts. The efficacy of phenytoin was classified into 3 categories: positive, negative, and nonevaluable response.


The primary outcome was to evaluate the efficacy rate of phenytoin; there were 9 (14.5%) of 62 episodes with a positive response, 25 (40.3%) with a negative response, and 28 (45.2%) with a nonevaluable response because phenytoin was given simultaneously with a γ-aminobutyric acidic (GABAergic) drug (P < .001). The secondary outcome was to measure the mean seizure duration for each treatment category, which were 52.8, 109.9, and 52.6 minutes, respectively (P < .01).


Phenytoin is rarely effective in controlling febrile status epilepticus. Children exposed to phenytoin have more prolonged febrile seizures, increasing the risk of brain injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2000-2004
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


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