Performance of Febrile Infant Decision Tools on Hypothermic Infants Evaluated for Infection

Hosp Pediatr. 2024 Feb 5:e2023007525. doi: 10.1542/hpeds.2023-007525. Online ahead of print.


Background: Given the lack of evidence-based guidelines for hypothermic infants, providers may be inclined to use febrile infant decision-making tools to guide management decisions. Our objective was to assess the diagnostic performance of febrile infant decision tools for identifying hypothermic infants at low risk of bacterial infection.

Methods: We conducted a secondary analysis of a retrospective cohort study of hypothermic (≤36.0 C) infants ≤90 days of age presenting to the emergency department or inpatient unit among 9 participating sites between September 1, 2016 and May 5, 2021. Well-appearing infants evaluated for bacterial infections via laboratory testing were included. Infants with complex chronic conditions or premature birth were excluded. Performance characteristics for detecting serious bacterial infection (SBI; urinary tract infection, bacteremia, bacterial meningitis) and invasive bacterial infection (IBI; bacteremia, bacterial meningitis) were calculated for each tool.

Results: Overall, 314 infants met the general inclusion criteria, including 14 cases of SBI (4.5%) and 7 cases of IBI (2.2%). The median age was 5 days, and 68.1% of the infants (214/314) underwent a full sepsis evaluation. The Philadelphia, Boston, IBI Score, and American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Practice Guideline did not misclassify any SBI or IBI as low risk; however, they had low specificity and positive predictive value. Rochester and Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network tools misclassified infants with bacterial infections.

Conclusions: Several febrile infant decision tools were highly sensitive, minimizing missed SBIs and IBIs in hypothermic infants. However, the low specificity of these decision tools may lead to unnecessary testing, antimicrobial exposure, and hospitalization.