December 1997

Cerebrospinal Fluid Findings in Children With Lyme Disease-Associated Facial Nerve Palsy

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Neurology (Drs Belman, Reynolds, Preston, Postels, and Coyle) and Preventive Medicine (Dr Grimson), School of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151(12):1224-1228. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1997.02170490050009

Objective:  To determine the relative frequency of abnormal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) findings in children with Lyme disease—associated facial nerve palsy.

Design:  A clinical series. A prospective evaluation was undertaken of the condition of children seen between 1988 and 1996 at a single medical center in a Lyme disease endemic area.

Patients:  Forty children (24 boys and 16 girls, aged 3-19 years) with new onset facial nerve palsy who met the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention case definition of Lyme disease.

Interventions:  Neurologic examinations. Cerebrospinal fluid analyses.

Main Outcome Measures:  Rates of abnormal CSF findings: white blood cell count, protein level, and Borrelia burgdorferi—specific CSF assays.

Results:  Cerebrospinal fluid white blood cell count, protein level, or both were abnormal in 27 (68%) of the children. Thirty-six (90%) of the 40 children had a CSF abnormality consistent with central nervous system infection or immune involvement by B burgdorferi. Of the 22 children with CSF pleocytosis, only 7 (32%) had headache and none had meningeal signs.

Conclusions:  Most children with Lyme disease—associated facial nerve palsy have CSF abnormalities. Our studies indicate that, in endemic areas, facial nerve palsy in children may be a marker of Lyme disease and occult meningitis. When Lyme disease is suspected, CSF should be examined; in some cases, it may be helpful to expand beyond routine CSF studies to look at a battery of B burgdorferi—specific assays.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151:1224-1228.