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N Engl J Med. 1993 Aug 12;329(7):472-6.

A randomized study of outpatient treatment with ceftriaxone for selected febrile children with sickle cell disease.

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Department of Hematology-Oncology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38101.



Because of their susceptibility to pneumococcal sepsis, children with sickle cell disease and fever are usually hospitalized for antibiotic therapy. Outpatient treatment may be a safe and less expensive alternative for selected patients.


After evaluation in the emergency room, children ranging from 6 months to 12 years of age who had sickle hemoglobinopathies and temperatures exceeding 38.5 degrees C were randomly assigned to treatment as either inpatients or outpatients. We excluded from randomization children at higher risk of sepsis (as defined by specific criteria, including temperature above 40 degrees C, white-cell count below 5000 per cubic millimeter or above 30,000 per cubic millimeter, and the presence of pulmonary infiltrates) or with complications of sickle cell disease (such as a hemoglobin level below 5 g per deciliter, dehydration, or severe pain); these children were treated as inpatients. All patients received an initial intravenous dose of ceftriaxone (50 mg per kilogram of body weight). Those treated as outpatients returned 24 hours later for a second dose of ceftriaxone, whereas the in patients were treated as directed by their physicians.


None of the 86 patients (with a total of 98 febrile episodes) in the randomized groups had sepsis, as compared with 6 of the 70 patients (7 of 86 episodes) excluded because of higher risk (P = 0.004). Among the 44 children (50 episodes) assigned to outpatient treatment, there were 11 hospitalizations (22 percent of episodes) within two weeks after treatment (95 percent confidence interval, 12 to 36 percent), whereas after inpatient care only a single patient (2 percent of episodes) was rehospitalized. When the randomized groups were compared, outpatient treatment saved a mean of $1,195 per febrile episode. The median hospital stay was 3 days (range, 1 to 6) for the children randomly assigned to inpatient care and 4 days (range, 1 to 18) for the higher-risk children treated as inpatients (P < 0.001).


With the use of conservative eligibility criteria, at least half the febrile episodes in children with sickle cell disease can be treated safely on an outpatient basis, with substantial reductions in cost.

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