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Is routine computed tomographic scanning justified in the first week of persistent febrile neutropenia in children with malignancies?


  • Conflict of interest: Nothing to report.



Prolonged febrile neutropenia (FN) remains a common problem in pediatric oncology and often leads to empiric computed tomography (CT) of the sinuses, chest, abdomen, and pelvis. Little evidence is available as to the diagnostic utility of CT in this setting.


We performed a retrospective review of all oncology patients admitted to the hospital from January 2004 through December 2008 for FN who had daily fevers with neutropenia for 4 or more consecutive days prompting CT evaluation. Eligible patient charts were reviewed for symptomatology prior to imaging as well as antibiotic and antifungal regimens throughout therapy.


Fifty-two patients had 68 unique episodes of prolonged FN that resulted in CT imaging. Positive findings occurred in 18%, 12%, and 25% of initial chest, abdomen, and sinus CTs, respectively. There were no positive findings on initial pelvic CT. Only two of the initial positive CT scans led to a change in management (6.5% of positive scans, 0.8% of all initial scans). These were both scans of the chest. All patients with concern for occult fungal infection had findings on chest CT. Patients with clinically important infections had no statistical difference in days of fever or neutropenia or type of underlying malignancy compared with those without infection. Clinical symptomatology was most helpful for typhlitis.


Treatment alteration rarely results from empiric CT imaging in the early days of prolonged FN. We therefore recommend limiting initial empiric CT imaging to the chest only in patients without localizing signs or symptoms and prolonged FN. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2011; 57: 620–624. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.