Repeated Blood Cultures in Pediatric Febrile Neutropenia: Would Following the Guidelines Alter the Outcome?

Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2016 Jul;63(7):1244-9. doi: 10.1002/pbc.25965. Epub 2016 Mar 10.


Background: The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) guidelines recommend collecting blood cultures for the first 3 days of febrile neutropenia (FN) in the clinically stable oncology patient with persistent fevers. Nonetheless, many physicians send daily blood cultures beyond 3 days, and the impact of that practice is uncertain.

Procedure: We reviewed pediatric FN episodes from July 2009 to May 2014 at University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital. For each positive culture, we determined if it was a pathogen or a contaminant. We reviewed episode and patient demographics to identify risk factors for subsequent positive blood cultures in the setting of an initially negative culture.

Results: We identified 381 episodes of FN in 162 patients. Of those, 87 had a positive blood culture on day 1 (21.0% incidence of bacteremia). Of 294 episodes with a negative blood culture on day 1, six (2.04%, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.42-3.67) had a positive culture after day 3. Of those, three were pathogens (1.02%, 95%CI -0.14 to 2.18), and only one was found in a hemodynamically stable patient (0.34%, 95%CI -0.33 to 1.01) with new mucositis. In the other two patients, Escherichia coli was isolated from blood cultures after day 10 in the setting of significant hemodynamic changes. Risk factor analysis performed in stable patients yielded nonsignificant results.

Conclusions: Of 294 FN episodes with an initial negative blood culture, only one episode of bacteremia occurred without hemodynamic changes past day 3, supporting the IDSA guidelines to discontinue blood cultures in stable FN patients after day 3.

Keywords: febrile neutropenia; infections in immunocompromised hosts; pediatric oncology.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bacteremia* / blood
  • Bacteremia* / epidemiology
  • Bacteremia* / etiology
  • Bacteremia* / microbiology
  • Blood Culture*
  • Chemotherapy-Induced Febrile Neutropenia* / blood
  • Chemotherapy-Induced Febrile Neutropenia* / epidemiology
  • Chemotherapy-Induced Febrile Neutropenia* / microbiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Escherichia coli Infections* / blood
  • Escherichia coli Infections* / epidemiology
  • Escherichia coli Infections* / etiology
  • Escherichia coli Infections* / microbiology
  • Escherichia coli*
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male