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Clin Infect Dis. 2007 Nov 15;45(10):1296-304. Epub 2007 Oct 5.

A prospective study on the epidemiology of febrile episodes during chemotherapy-induced neutropenia in children with cancer or after hemopoietic stem cell transplantation.

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Infectious Diseases Unit, G. Gaslini Children Hospital, Genoa, Italy.



The purpose of our study was to evaluate the incidence and clinical characteristics of febrile episodes during neutropenia following chemotherapy in children with cancer.


A prospective, 3-year single-center observational study of periods of neutropenia was performed. Epidemiology and clinical diagnoses of febrile episodes occurring during the neutropenic periods were evaluated, taking into consideration different categories of anticancer treatment based on the type of tumor and phase of therapy.


A total of 703 febrile episodes were observed during 614 (34%) of 1792 neutropenic periods (34%), for a total of 28,001 days at risk, accounting for a rate of 0.76 episodes per 30 days at risk. The highest proportions of neutropenic periods with primary febrile episodes were observed after autologous hemopoietic stem cell transplantation (58%), aggressive treatment for acute leukemia or non-Hodgkin lymphoma (48%), and allogeneic hemopoietic stem cell transplantation (44%); the lowest proportion (9%) was observed during maintenance chemotherapy for acute leukemia (P<.001). The most frequent clinical diagnosis was fever of unknown origin (in 79% of cases), followed by bacteremia (10%); invasive mycosis was diagnosed in only 2% of cases.


The overall incidence of febrile neutropenia and severe infectious complications in children with cancer is low, with differences according to the aggressiveness of chemotherapy. This fact must be considered when designing clinical trials on the management of infectious complications in children with cancer.

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