A review of consecutive previously healthy children with fever and newly discovered neutropenia without underlying malignancy, evaluated during a three-year period, was performed. A total of 68 episodes occurred in 68 patients; blood culture was performed on each. Of 17 patients who appeared compromised (ill, irritable, toxic) on presentation, five (30%) had either bacteremia or bacterial meningitis. All five patients had clinical evidence of a fulminant disease process on examination. By contrast, all 51 patients who appeared to be well on presentation were culture-negative.
Fever and new-onset neutropenia in children is a heterogeneous disorder with several outcomes. Any child with fever and newly discovered neutropenia who appears ill should be presumed to be at high risk for systemic bacterial infection and receive hospitalization for parenteral antibiotic therapy. By contrast, the previously healthy child older than two months of age with fever and new-onset neutropenia who appears to be well, and whose clinical evaluation does not indicate a serious underlying disease process, is at low risk for accompanying systemic bacterial infection; hospitalization with empiric antibiotic therapy pending culture results is not warranted for the majority of such children. Close outpatient monitoring with serial evaluation of the peripheral blood absolute neutrophil count to document bone marrow recovery is recommended for such cases.
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