Febrile neutropenia in French emergency departments: results of a prospective multicentre survey

Crit Care. 2010;14(2):R68. doi: 10.1186/cc8972. Epub 2010 Apr 19.


Introduction: Febrile neutropenia (FN) is common in cancer patients receiving myelotoxic therapy. The procedures to treat FN are well established in oncology, but it is unclear whether management is adequate in the emergency department (ED).

Methods: This prospective, multicentre, observational study was carried out in 47 French EDs for 6 months. Patients were adults presenting at the ED with FN after myelotoxic treatment for cancer. Severity of infection was defined according to Bone criteria for severe sepsis and septic shock (SS/SSh) and risk was determined according to Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC) criteria. The end point was the implementation of guidelines. Management of patients with SS/SSh required: (i) adequate intravenous (IV) antimicrobial therapy for the first 90 min (broad-spectrum beta-lactam with or without an aminoglycoside); (ii) fluid challenge (500 mL); (iii) lactate measurement; (iv) at least one blood culture; and (v) hospitalization. Management of patients without SS/SSh required: (1) no initiation of granulocyte - cell stimulating factor (G-CSF); (2) adequate IV antimicrobial therapy (broad-spectrum beta-lactam) and hospitalization if the patient was high-risk according to MASCC criteria; (3) adequate oral antimicrobial therapy (quinolone or amoxicillin/clavulanate or cephalosporin) and hospital discharge if the patient was low-risk.

Results: 198 patients were enrolled; 89 patients had SS/SSh, of whom 19 received adequate antimicrobial therapy within 90 min and 42 received appropriate fluid challenge. Blood cultures were obtained from 87 and lactate concentration was measured in 29. Overall, only 6 (7%) patients with SS/SSh received adequate management. Among 108 patients without SS/SSh, 38 (35%) were high-risk and 70 (65%) low-risk. In the high-risk group, adequate antimicrobial therapy was given to 31 patients, G-CSF was initiated in 4 and 35 were hospitalized. In the low-risk group, 4 patients received adequate oral antimicrobial therapy, IV antimicrobial therapy was prescribed in 59, G-CSF was initiated in 12 and six patients were discharged. Adequate management was given to 26/38 (68%) high-risk and 1/70 low-risk patients. Factors associated with adequate management were absence of SS/SSh (P = 0.0009) and high-risk according to MASCC criteria (P < 0.0001).

Conclusions: In this French sample of cancer patients presenting to the ED with FN, management was often inadequate and severity was under-evaluated in the critically ill.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards*
  • Female
  • Fever / diagnosis
  • Fever / drug therapy*
  • France
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neutropenia / diagnosis
  • Neutropenia / drug therapy*
  • Observation
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents