Febrile infant guideline allows wiggle room on hospital admission, testing



The long-anticipated American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for the treatment of well-appearing febrile infants have arrived, and key points include updated guidance for cerebrospinal fluid testing and urine cultures, according to Robert Pantell, MD, and Kenneth Roberts, MD, who presented the guidelines at the virtual Pediatric Hospital Medicine annual conference.

The AAP guideline was published in the August 2021 issue of Pediatrics. The guideline includes 21 key action statements and 40 total recommendations, and describes separate management algorithms for three age groups: infants aged 8-21 days, 22-28 days, and 29-60 days.

Dr. Roberts, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Dr. Pantell, of the University of California, San Francisco, emphasized that all pediatricians should read the full guideline, but they offered an overview of some of the notable points.

Some changes that drove the development of evidence-based guideline included changes in technology, such as the increased use of procalcitonin, the development of large research networks for studies of sufficient size, and a need to reduce the costs of unnecessary care and unnecessary trauma for infants, Dr. Roberts said. Use of data from large networks such as the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network provided enough evidence to support dividing the aged 8- to 60-day population into three groups.

The guideline applies to well-appearing term infants aged 8-60 days and at least 37 weeks’ gestation, with fever of 38° C (100.4° F) or higher in the past 24 hours in the home or clinical setting. The decision to exclude infants in the first week of life from the guideline was because at this age, infants “are sufficiently different in rates and types of illness, including early-onset bacterial infection,” according to the authors.

Dr. Roberts emphasized that the guidelines apply to “well-appearing infants,” which is not always obvious. “If a clinician is not confident an infant is well appearing, the clinical practice guideline should not be applied,” he said.

The guideline also includes a visual algorithm for each age group.

Dr. Pantell summarized the key action statements for the three age groups, and encouraged pediatricians to review the visual algorithms and footnotes available in the full text of the guideline.

The guideline includes seven key action statements for each of the three age groups. Four of these address evaluations, using urine, blood culture, inflammatory markers (IM), and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). One action statement focuses on initial treatment, and two on management: hospital admission versus monitoring at home, and treatment cessation.

Infants aged 8-21 days

The key action statements for well-appearing infants aged 8-21 days are similar to what clinicians likely would do for ill-appearing infants, the authors noted, based in part on the challenge of assessing an infant this age as “well appearing,” because they don’t yet have the ability to interact with the clinician.

For the 8- to 21-day group, the first two key actions are to obtain a urine specimen and blood culture, Dr. Pantell said. Also, clinicians “should” obtain a CSF for analysis and culture. “We recognize that the ability to get CSF quickly is a challenge,” he added. However, for the 8- to 21-day age group, a new feature is that these infants may be discharged if the CSF is negative. Evaluation in this youngest group states that clinicians “may assess inflammatory markers” including height of fever, absolute neutrophil count, C-reactive protein, and procalcitonin.

Treatment of infants in the 8- to 21-day group “should” include parenteral antimicrobial therapy, according to the guideline, and these infants “should” be actively monitored in the hospital by nurses and staff experienced in neonatal care, Dr. Pantell said. The guideline also includes a key action statement to stop antimicrobials at 24-36 hours if cultures are negative, but to treat identified organisms.


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