Children with complex febrile convulsions bear a higher risk of developing epilepsy than children with simple febrile convulsions. Complex febrile convulsions are defined by the presence of prolonged seizures, partial seizures and multiple seizures occurring during the same day. The aim of this study is to delineate the relative significance of each of the three criteria defining complex febrile convulsions. Fifty-seven out of 477 children (12%) admitted for febrile convulsions had complex febrile convulsions and normal neurological examination. Follow-up was available for 48 (84%) of them. Thirteen of these 48 (27%) had epilepsy at follow-up. The mean age of seizure onset among the patients with subsequent afebrile seizures was significantly lower than the rest (10.8 months versus 16.8 months). The patients with partial febrile convulsions showed a trend toward a higher risk (45%) of developing epilepsy than the patients with multiple febrile convulsions (21%). Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.