Reducing Invasive Care for Low-risk Febrile Infants Through Implementation of a Clinical Pathway

Pediatrics. 2019 Mar;143(3):e20181610. doi: 10.1542/peds.2018-1610. Epub 2019 Feb 6.


Background and objectives: Significant variation in management of febrile infants exists both nationally and within our institution. Risk stratification can be used to identify low-risk infants who can be managed as outpatients without lumbar puncture (LP) or antibiotics. Our objective was to reduce invasive interventions for febrile infants aged 29 to 60 days at low risk for serious bacterial infection (SBI) through implementation of a clinical pathway supported by quality improvement (QI).

Methods: The evidence-based clinical pathway was developed and implemented by a multidisciplinary team with continuous-process QI to sustain use. Low-risk infants who underwent LP, received antibiotics, and were admitted to the hospital were compared pre- and postpathway implementation with SBI in low-risk infants and appropriate care for high-risk infants as balancing measures.

Results: Of 350 included patients, 220 were pre- and 130 were postpathway implementation. With pathway implementation in July 2016, invasive interventions decreased significantly in low-risk infants, with LPs decreasing from 32% to 0%, antibiotic administration from 30% to 1%, and hospital admission from 17% to 2%. Postimplementation, there were 0 SBIs in low-risk infants versus 29.2% in high-risk infants. The percentage of high-risk patients receiving care per pathway remained unchanged. Improvement was sustained for 12 months through QI interventions, including order-set development and e-mail reminders.

Conclusions: Implementation of a clinical pathway by using QI methods resulted in sustained reduction in invasive interventions for low-risk febrile infants without missed SBIs. Clinical pathways and QI can be key strategies in the delivery of evidence-based care for febrile infants.

MeSH terms

  • Critical Pathways / standards*
  • Critical Pathways / trends
  • Female
  • Fever / diagnosis*
  • Fever / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Quality Improvement / standards*
  • Quality Improvement / trends
  • Risk Factors