Febrile children with comorbidities at the emergency department - a multicentre observational study

Eur J Pediatr. 2022 Sep;181(9):3491-3500. doi: 10.1007/s00431-022-04552-2. Epub 2022 Jul 7.


We aimed to describe characteristics and management of children with comorbidities attending European emergency departments (EDs) with fever. MOFICHE (Management and Outcome of Fever in children in Europe) is a prospective multicentre study (12 European EDs, 8 countries). Febrile children with comorbidities were compared to those without in terms of patient characteristics, markers of disease severity, management, and diagnosis. Comorbidity was defined as a chronic underlying condition that is expected to last > 1 year. We performed multivariable logistic regression analysis, displaying adjusted odds ratios (aOR), adjusting for patient characteristics. We included 38,110 patients, of whom 5906 (16%) had comorbidities. Most common comorbidities were pulmonary, neurologic, or prematurity. Patients with comorbidities more often were ill appearing (20 versus 16%, p < 0.001), had an ED-Paediatric Early Warning Score of > 15 (22 versus 12%, p < 0.001), or a C-reactive protein > 60 mg/l (aOR 1.4 (95%CI 1.3-1.6)). They more often required life-saving interventions (aOR 2.7, 95% CI 2.2-3.3), were treated with intravenous antibiotics (aOR 2.3, 95%CI 2.1-2.5), and were admitted to the ward (aOR 2.2, 95%CI 2.1-2.4) or paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) (aOR 5.5, 95% CI 3.8-7.9). They were more often diagnosed with serious bacterial infections (aOR 1.8, 95%CI 1.7-2.0), including sepsis/meningitis (aOR 4.6, 95%CI 3.2-6.7). Children most at risk for sepsis/meningitis were children with malignancy/immunodeficiency (aOR 14.5, 8.5-24.8), while children with psychomotor delay/neurological disease were most at risk for life-saving interventions (aOR 5.3, 4.1-6.9) or PICU admission (aOR 9.7, 6.1-15.5).

Conclusions: Our data show how children with comorbidities are a population at risk, as they more often are diagnosed with bacterial infections and more often require PICU admission and life-saving interventions.

What is known: • While children with comorbidity constitute a large part of ED frequent flyers, they are often excluded from studies.

What is new: • Children with comorbidities in general are more ill upon presentation than children without comorbidities. • Children with comorbidities form a heterogeneous group; specific subgroups have an increased risk for invasive bacterial infections, while others have an increased risk of invasive interventions such as PICU admission, regardless of the cause of the fever.

Keywords: Chronic disease; Comorbidity; Emergency care; Fever; Infectious diseases.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Infections* / diagnosis
  • Child
  • Comorbidity
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Fever / epidemiology
  • Fever / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sepsis*