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Intern Med J. 2001 Sep-Oct;31(7):406-12.

Retrospective review of febrile neutropenia in the Royal Darwin Hospital, 1994-99.

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Royal Adelaide Hospital, South Australia.



Febrile neutropenia is a life-threatening complication of cytotoxic chemotherapy. Empirical antibiotic treatment should be based on predominant pathogens and epidemiological characteristics of the treated community. The aim of the present study was to review cases of febrile neutropenia at the Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH) in order to assess the appropriateness of empirical antibiotic therapy.


A retrospective review of cases of febrile neutropenia secondary to malignancy or chemotherapy occurring at the RDH over the period 1994-99. In order to compare infections in this group with those in the wider hospital community, all positive blood cultures in the medical and intensive care units were reviewed for the same time period.


Thirty-six episodes of febrile neutropenia were reviewed. Staphylococcus aureus (predominantly methicillin resistant), Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli were the most common organisms identified. Nine patients died of their infection, four with methicillin-resistant S. aureus bacteraemia. S. aureus, E. coli, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Burkholderia pseudomallei (melioid) were the most frequently isolated organisms from blood cultures taken in the medical and intensive care units.


Gram-positive organisms are the predominant pathogens in febrile neutropenic episodes at the RDH. Standard empirical therapy with an extended-spectrum penicillin and an aminoglycoside remains appropriate, with the addition of vancomycin when clinical status fails to improve. When practising in the Top End, particular consideration should be given to skin integrity and scabies and testing for Strongyloides in Aboriginal patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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