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(Febrile Neutropenia)

Definition

Neutropenic fever is a temperature over 100.4°F (38°C) in a person with neutropenia. Neutropenia is a low number of neutrophils in the blood. This is a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infections.

White Blood Cells
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Causes

The fever is caused by an infection.

Neutropenia can have many causes, such as cancer treatments. Other medicines, infections, or cancer itself may also be the cause.

Risk Factors

Having neutropenia raises the risk of infection and fever. It is also more common in older adults.

Other things that raise the risk of this health problem are:

  • Uncontrolled cancer
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Liver or kidney problems

Symptoms

The main sign is a fever. There may also be chills and sweating.

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. An exam will be done.

Your blood may be tested.

You may have more tests to look for the site of the infection.

Treatment

An infection with neutropenia can be serious. Antibiotics will be given right away to treat infection.

Tests to find the cause of the infection can take a few days.

Prevention

Some people with this health problem are at high risk for infection. Antibiotics may be given to help stop one before it happens.

Other steps to lower the risk of infections are:

  • Good hand washing habits
  • Staying away from people who are sick
  • Getting flu and pneumonia vaccines on time

RESOURCES

American Cancer Society  http://www.cancer.org 

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute  http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Cancer Society  http://www.cancer.ca  

Public Health Agency of Canada  http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca  

References

Febrile neutropenia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/condition/febrile-neutropenia . Updated October 4, 2019. Accessed December 11, 2019.

Infections in people with cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/002871-pdf.pdf. Accessed December 11, 2019.

Taplitz RA, Kennedy EB, et al. Outpatient Management of Fever and Neutropenia in Adults Treated for Malignancy: American Society of Clinical Oncology and Infectious Diseases Society of America Clinical Practice Guideline Update. J Clin Oncol. 2018 May 10;36(14):1443-1453.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board James Cornell, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2019
  • Update Date: 12/11/2019