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Br J Cancer. 2003 Jul 7;89(1):43-9.

Oral antibiotics with early hospital discharge compared with in-patient intravenous antibiotics for low-risk febrile neutropenia in patients with cancer: a prospective randomised controlled single centre study.

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  • 1Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology, Bebington, Wirral, Merseyside, UK.


Neutropenic sepsis remains a potentially life-threatening complication of anticancer chemotherapy. However, it is possible to identify patients who are at low risk for serious complications and for whom less-intensive, more-convenient treatment may be appropriate. The aim of this study was to assess the efficacy and safety of oral antibiotics in conjunction with early hospital discharge in comparison with standard in-patient intravenous antibiotics in patients with low-risk neutropenic fever. In all, 126 episodes of low-risk neutropenic fever occurred in 102 patients. Patients were randomised to receive either: an oral regimen of ciprofloxacin (750 mg 12 hourly) plus amoxicillin-clavulanate (675 mg 8 hourly) for a total of 5 days, or a standard intravenous regimen of gentamicin and tazocin (piperacillin/tazobactam) until hospital discharge. Patients randomised to oral antibiotics were eligible for discharge following 24 h of hospitalisation, if clinically stable and symptomatically improved. The efficacy of the two arms was similar: initial treatment was successful without antibiotic modification in 90% of episodes in the intravenous arm and 84.8% of episodes in the oral arm, P=0.55, absolute difference between the groups 5.2%; 95% confidence interval (CI) for the difference -7 to 17.3%. Only one episode in the oral arm was associated with significant clinical deterioration: this occurred within the initial in-patient assessment period. The median in-patient stay was 4 days in the intravenous arm (range 2-8) and 2 days in the oral arm (range 1-16 days), P&<0.0005. The reduction in hospital stay led to significant cost-savings in the oral arm. In conclusion, this study suggests that oral antibiotics in conjunction with early hospital discharge for patients who remain stable after a 24 h period of in-patient monitoring offers a feasible and cost-effective alternative to conventional management of low-risk neutropenic fever.

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