OBJECTIVES: Acute nystagmus (AN) is an uncommon neurologic sign in children presenting to pediatric emergency departments. We described the epidemiology, clinical features, and underlying causes of AN in a large cohort of children, aiming at identifying features associated with higher risk of severe underlying urgent conditions (UCs).
METHODS: Clinical records of all patients aged 0 to 18 years presenting for AN to the pediatric emergency departments of 9 Italian hospitals in an 8-year period were retrospectively reviewed. Clinical and demographic features and the underlying causes were analyzed. A logistic regression model was applied to detect predictive variables associated with a higher risk of UCs.
RESULTS: A total of 206 patients with AN were included (male-to-female ratio: 1.01; mean age: 8 years 11 months). The most frequently associated symptoms were headache (43.2%) and vertigo (42.2%). Ataxia (17.5%) and strabismus (13.1%) were the most common neurologic signs. Migraine (25.7%) and vestibular disorders (14.1%) were the most common causes of AN. Idiopathic infantile nystagmus was the most common cause in infants <1 year of age. UCs accounted for 18.9% of all cases, mostly represented by brain tumors (8.3%). Accordant with the logistic model, cranial nerve deficits, ataxia, or strabismus were strongly associated with an underlying UC. Presence of vertigo or attribution of a nonurgent triage code was associated with a reduced risk of UCs.
CONCLUSIONS: AN should be considered an alarming finding in children given the risk of severe UCs. Cranial nerve palsy, ataxia, and strabismus should be considered red flags during the assessment of a child with AN.
- Brain Neoplasms/complications
- Central Nervous System Infections/complications
- Child, Preschool
- Cohort Studies
- Cranial Nerve Diseases/complications
- Demyelinating Diseases/complications
- Emergency Service, Hospital
- Intracranial Hypertension/complications
- Migraine Disorders/complications
- Nystagmus, Pathologic/etiology
- Retrospective Studies
- Vestibular Diseases/complications