Background: Infectious Diseases Society of America guidelines defines febrile neutropenia (FN) patients as high risk, if they have an absolute neutrophil count (ANC) ≤100 cells/µL anticipated to last >7 days. However, data evaluating the clinical significance of the depth and duration of neutropenia are limited.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of pediatric oncology patients presenting with FN to examine whether the effects of the depth and duration of neutropenia prior to presentation were predictive of blood stream infection (BSI), invasive fungal disease (IFD), pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admission or length of stay.
Results: A total of 585 FN episodes (FNEs) were identified in 265 patients. ANC at the time of presentation was <100 in 411 (70%), 100-500 in 119 (20%), and >500 cells/μL with subsequent decline to <500 cells/μL in the next 48 hours in 55 (10%) of FNEs. In the group with ANC > 500 with subsequent decline in 48 hours, rates of IFD and BSI were higher when compared with ANC < 100 cells/μL [odds ratio (OR) = 5.9, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.7-29.6] and (OR = 2.35, 95% CI: 01.02-5.4), and patients in this group were more likely to be admitted to the PICU (OR= 5.1, 95% CI: 1.134-19.46). No difference in outcomes was identified when the groups of ANC < 100 and ANC of 100-500 cells/μL were compared. Neutropenia >7 days prior to FNE was an independent risk factor for BSI (OR = 2.88, 95% CI: 1.55-5.35 and increased length of stay.
Conclusions: Clinicians should not be reassured when patients present with FN and initial ANC >500 cells/mL after recent chemotherapy if continued decline is expected as patients in this group are at high risk of IFD, BSI and PICU admission.