The role of temperature in the detection and diagnosis of neutropenic sepsis in adult solid tumour cancer patients receiving chemotherapy
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Purpose The primary aim of this study was to examine the value of temperature as a diagnostic and prognostic indicator of infection and sepsis in neutropenic patients. A secondary aim was to gain insight into the presenting symptoms reported by these patients at home or on their initial admission assessment. Methods A cohort study was carried out using a case note review of 220 emergency admissions to a regional cancer centre. All participants were neutropenic and were diagnosed with infection on admission. The main outcome measures were relationships between Early Warning Scores and temperature values at home, on admission and during the hospital stay. Results 22% of patients who became acutely unwell did not have a fever. Pearson correlations showed only small associations between highest temperature value at any time point and highest early warning scores (r(202) = 0.176, P = .012). Temperature at home (B = 0.156, P = .336) and temperature on admission (B = 0.200, P = .052) did not predict highest Early Warning Scores. Conclusions Body temperature is not a consistently reliable diagnostic or prognostic indicator for outcomes in patients with neutropenia and symptoms of infection. It can assist with early presentation and recognition of infection in many neutropenic patients. However, over-reliance on temperature risks missing the opportunity for early detection and treatment.