Financial and clinical impact of false-positive blood culture results

Clin Infect Dis. 2001 Aug 1;33(3):296-9. doi: 10.1086/321881. Epub 2001 Jun 21.


During a 4-year period, 9465 specimens for blood culture were obtained from 11,911 highly febrile, otherwise healthy young children. Of these specimens, 87 (0.9%) yielded nonpathogens and were considered to be false-positive blood culture results (FPBCRs). Seventy-two of the patients who provided these specimens were treated on an outpatient basis (resulting in $10,821 in treatment charges), and 7 were admitted to the hospital (resulting in $16,200 in charges) as a result of the FPBCRs. Studies performed during follow-up included a second blood culture (21 patients), complete blood cell count (11), urine analysis and culture (5), lumbar puncture (3), and chest radiography (3). Only a small minority of patients were hospitalized or underwent invasive procedures. The charges associated with FPBCRs are very small in comparison to the initial charges of culturing specimens obtained from children considered to be at risk. Concern about the consequences of FPBCRs should not deter clinicians from performing indicated cultures for children who potentially have bacteremia.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / economics
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bacteremia / diagnosis*
  • Bacteremia / drug therapy
  • Bacteremia / economics*
  • Blood* / microbiology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Fever
  • Hematologic Tests* / economics
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • United States


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents