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Prim Care. 1989 Jun;16(2):501-13.

Fever of unknown origin in the elderly.

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Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Kansas School of Medicine, Wichita.


Fever is a prominent sign of an acute-phase response induced by microbial invasion, tissue injury, immunologic reactions, or inflammatory processes. This generalized host response is produced by a multiplicity of localized or systemic diseases and characterized by acute, subacute, or chronic changes in metabolic, endocrinologic, neurologic, and immunologic functions. The fundamental event is an initiation of the acute-phase response by the production of a mediated molecule called IL-1. This polypeptide is produced primarily from phagocytic cells such as blood monocytes, phagocytic lining cells of the liver and spleen, and other tissue macrophages. IL-1 produces a local reaction but also enters the circulation, acting as a hormone to mediate distant organ system responses to infection, immunologic reaction, and inflammatory processes. Fever is the result when IL-1 initiates the synthesis of prostaglandins, notably prostaglandin E2 in the thermoregulatory center located in the anterior hypothalamus. The thermostatic set point is then raised and mechanisms to conserve heat (vasoconstriction) and to produce heat (shivering) are initiated. The result is a sudden rise in body temperature. The same basic mechanisms are involved in FUO. Many of the biologic and biochemical changes that are seen in FUO are also evidence of an acute-phase response. The elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate is partly due to increased synthesis of hepatic proteins, including compliment components, ceruloplasmin, fibrinogen, and C-reactive protein. IL-1 acts directly on the bone marrow to increase absolute numbers and immaturity of circulating neutrophils. Anemia is produced by many mechanisms, including the reduction of circulating serum iron. Although fever production in the elderly maybe delayed or of less intensity, it is still a marker of significant disease.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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