INTRODUCTION. Although Lyme disease can cause peripheral facial palsy in Lyme disease–endemic areas, diagnostic predictors in children have not been described.

OBJECTIVE. Our goal was to determine clinical predictors of Lyme disease as the etiology of peripheral facial palsy in children presenting to an emergency department in a Lyme disease–endemic area.

METHODS. We reviewed all available electronic medical charts of children ≤20 years old with peripheral facial palsy who were evaluated in the emergency department of a tertiary care pediatric center from 1995 to 2007. We used the Centers for Disease Control Lyme disease definition: presence of erythema migrans lesion or serologic evidence of infection with Borrelia burgdorferi. We performed binary logistic regression with bootstrapping validation to determine independent clinical predictors of Lyme disease.

RESULTS. We identified 313 patients with peripheral facial palsy evaluated for Lyme disease. The mean age was 10.7 years, and 52% were male. Of these, 106 (34%) had Lyme disease facial palsy. After adjusting for year of study, the following were independently associated with Lyme disease facial palsy: onset of symptoms during peak Lyme disease season (June to October), absence of previous herpetic lesions, presence of fever, and history of headache. In the subset of patients without meningitis, both onset of symptoms during Lyme disease season and presence of headache remained significant independent predictors.

CONCLUSIONS. Lyme disease is a frequent cause of facial palsy in children living in an endemic region. Serologic testing and empiric antibiotics should be strongly considered, especially when children present during peak Lyme disease season or with a headache.

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