Early hospital discharge of children with cancer treated for fever and neutropenia: Identification and management of the low-risk patient

Craig A. Mullen, George R. Buchanan

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122 Scopus citations


Children with leukemia and solid tumors are often hospitalized for empiric broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy because of fever during periods of chemotherapy-induced neutropenia. Conventional practice dictates that parenteral antibiotics be continued until the patient is afebrile and has recovered from neutropenia, ie, until the absolute neutrophil count (ANC) exceeds 500 cells per cubic millimeter. However, the practice in our center has been to discontinue parenteral antibiotic therapy and discharge many such patients before resolution of neutropenia. Since the feasibility and safety of this approach has not been studied, we reviewed the records of 114 consecutive hospitalizations for fever and neutropenia in 61 patients during a 13-month period. Seventy-seven children (68%) were discharged to their homes while still neutropenic after they had been afebrile for 1 to 2 days on parenteral antibiotics, had negative blood cultures, appeared well, and usually had some evidence of bone marrow recovery. Five patients (4.4%) developed recurrent fever and required rehospitalization within 7 days of discharge. Only three of the 77 patients (3.9%) who were sent home with neutropenia had recurrent fever. Each had a brief and uneventful second hospitalization. Two of the 37 children discharged with an ANC over 500 cells per cubic millimeter required rehospitalization. A declining ANC and advanced malignancy were risk factors in predicting recurrence of fever following discharge. A rising monocyte count was a predictor of imminent recovery from neutropenia. These results suggest that "early" discharge of an afebrile yet still neutropenic patient is safe when the patient is in remission, has no evidence of serious infection, appears clinically stable, and has indications of bone marrow recovery. The conventional approach of routinely continuing the hospitalization until resolution of neutropenia may be unnecessary in such low-risk patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1998-2004
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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