Febrile neutropenia is the development of fever, often with other signs of infection, in a patient with neutropenia, an abnormally low number of neutrophil granulocytes (a type of white blood cell) in the blood. The term neutropenic sepsis is also applied, although it tends to be reserved for patients who are less well. In 50% of cases, an infection is detectable; bacteremia (bacteria in the bloodstream) is present in approximately 20% of all patients with this condition.
Febrile neutropenia can develop in any form of neutropenia, but is most generally recognized as a complication of chemotherapy when it is myelosuppressive (suppresses the bone marrow from producing blood cells).
MASCC risk index
The Multinational Association for Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC) risk index can be used to identify low-risk patients (score ≥21 points) for serious complications of febrile neutropenia (including death, intensive care unit admission, confusion, cardiac complications, respiratory failure, renal failure, hypotension, bleeding, and other serious medical complications). The score was developed to select patients for therapeutic strategies that could potentially be more convenient or cost-effective. A prospective trial demonstrated that a modified MASCC score can identify patients with febrile neutropenia at low risk of complications, as well.
Generally, patients with febrile neutropenia are treated with empirical antibiotics until the neutrophil count has recovered (absolute neutrophil counts greater than 500/mm3) and the fever has abated; if the neutrophil count does not improve, treatment may need to continue for two weeks or occasionally more. In cases of recurrent or persistent fever, an antifungal agent should be added.
Guidelines issued in 2002 by the Infectious Diseases Society of America recommend the use of particular combinations of antibiotics in specific settings; mild low-risk cases may be treated with a combination of oral co-amoxiclav and ciprofloxacin, while more severe cases require cephalosporins with activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa (e.g. cefepime), or carbapenems (imipenem or meropenem). A subsequent meta-analysis published in 2006 found cefepime to be associated with more negative outcomes, and carbapenems (while causing a higher rate of pseudomembranous colitis) were the most straightforward in use.
In 2010, updated guidelines were issued by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, recommending use of cefepime, carbapenems (meropenem and imipenem/cilastatin), or piperacillin/tazobactam for high-risk patients and co-amoxiclav and ciprofloxacin for low-risk patients. Patients who do not strictly fulfill the criteria of low-risk patients should be admitted to the hospital and treated as high-risk patients.
- Hughes WT, Armstrong D, Bodey GP, et al. (March 2002). "2002 guidelines for the use of antimicrobial agents in neutropenic patients with cancer". Clin. Infect. Dis. 34 (6): 730–51. doi:10.1086/339215. ISSN 1058-4838. PMID 11850858.
- Klastersky J, Paesmans M, Rubenstein EB, et al. (16 August 2000). "The Multinational Association for Supportive Care in Cancer risk index: A multinational scoring system for identifying low-risk febrile neutropenic cancer patients.". J Clin Oncol. 18 (16): 3038–51. ISSN 0732-183X. PMID 10944139.
- de Souza Viana L, Serufo JC, da Costa Rocha MO, Costa RN, Duarte RC (July 2008). "Performance of a modified MASCC index score for identifying low-risk febrile neutropenic cancer patients". Supportive Care in Cancer : Official Journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer 16 (7): 841–6. doi:10.1007/s00520-007-0347-3. ISSN 0941-4355. PMID 17960431.
- Paul M, Yahav D, Fraser A, Leibovici L (February 2006). "Empirical antibiotic monotherapy for febrile neutropenia: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials". J. Antimicrob. Chemother. 57 (2): 176–89. doi:10.1093/jac/dki448. ISSN 0305-7453. PMID 16344285.
- Febrile neutropenia entry in the public domain NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms