Febrile neutropenia is a fever and infection in an individual who has neutropenia. It typically develops because the hematological disorder neutropenia is a condition in which infection-fighting white blood cells are low in the blood stream, thus leaving the patient more vulnerable to illness. In many cases, the fever is the result of infection.
Neutropenia is specifically the lack of sufficient neutrophil granulocytes in the blood. This is meant to be the most abundant cell type in a healthy bloodstream. As they destroy bacteria, they are also an important type of white blood cell for overall health.
Febrile neutropenia is primarily caused by medical treatments, such as chemotherapy, that kill blood cells and cause problems with the function of bone marrow. The lower blood cell count resulting from this procedure is often temporary. Until the count is restored to normal levels, a patient will continue to be vulnerable to complications such as febrile neutropenia.
Unlike many other kinds of infections, febrile neutropenia does not cause inflammation. For this reason, it can be difficult for a doctor to diagnose. It is most frequently detected via blood tests and body temperature readings. As the infection can develop quickly, many doctors will begin treatment on patients presenting many of the symptoms before the return of lab results in order to avoid a more severe condition.
Treatment for febrile neutropenia varies widely and depends primarily upon the health of the patient and how far the condition has progressed. Depending on the severity of the condition and the type of bacteria, a patient will usually be put on either intravenous or oral antibiotics. Sometimes multiple kinds of antibiotics will be prescribed. Many patients can be treated as outpatients, though hospitalization will usually be required in more advanced cases.
Once the febrile neutropenia has been diagnosed, many doctors will also attempt to determine the cause of the infection in order to reduce the patient’s vulnerability to future outbreaks. Blood tests can help to determine the cause and original location of the infection. This can be especially important when a patient is already in a weakened condition due to recovery from a procedure.
If it is left untreated, febrile neutropenia can be fatal. Once it begins, the infection can spread quickly. Some possible effects of the condition include confusion, bleeding, cardiac problems, and hypotension. A patient can also have renal or respiratory failure. If the condition is detected and treated early enough, most of these problems can be avoided.