Treatment of pyelonephritis in an observation unit

Ann Emerg Med. 1991 Mar;20(3):258-61. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(05)80935-7.


Study objective: To determine the feasibility of managing patients with acute pyelonephritis as outpatients after initial treatment with IV antibiotics in an emergency department observation unit.

Design: Prospective and uncontrolled.

Setting: ED observation unit.

Type of participants: Nonpregnant female patients 14 years old or older without immunocompromise or serious underlying disease and no evidence of septic shock.

Interventions: All patients received two IV doses of trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole at a 12-hour dosing interval and promethazine and acetaminophen as needed for nausea and fever, respectively. Baseline laboratory data, urinalysis, and urine and blood cultures were obtained.

Measurements and main results: Patients were observed for signs of septic shock, nausea, vomiting, and the ability to tolerate an oral intake. At the end of the observation period, 43 of 44 patients were discharged on oral trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole. One additional patient who was doing well clinically was recalled and admitted because of a positive blood culture.

Conclusion: Patients with acute pyelonephritis, despite significant fever or nausea and vomiting, can be treated effectively as outpatients after a brief period of observation and IV antibiotics.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care / standards*
  • Decision Trees
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pyelonephritis / diagnosis
  • Pyelonephritis / drug therapy*
  • Pyelonephritis / physiopathology
  • Trimethoprim, Sulfamethoxazole Drug Combination / administration & dosage
  • Trimethoprim, Sulfamethoxazole Drug Combination / therapeutic use*


  • Trimethoprim, Sulfamethoxazole Drug Combination