Follow-up of patients with occult bacteremia in pediatric emergency departments

Mark Joffe, Jeffrey R. Avner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Blood cultures are frequently obtained in pediatric emergency departments (EDs) from febrile young children at risk for bacteremia and subsequent development of serious bacterial infections. This study of 105 children with occult bacteremia treated in two large urban pediatric EDs describes the follow-up of these patients and the impact that positive blood culture results have on the detection of serious illness. Seventy-seven percent of patients had a follow-up visit in the ED, 8% had follow-up by telephone alone, and 15% were not contacted. Of the patients who returned to the ED, 49% did so because they were notified of the positive blood culture result. The mean time interval for these patients from registration at the initial visit to report of positive blood culture result was 30.0 hours and, from registration at the initial visit to follow-up visit, was 42.7 hours. Thirty-seven percent of those who returned did so because a follow-up visit was scheduled at the initial encounter, and 13% returned because of persistent illness. Ten children (9.6%), five of whom had been notified of the positive blood culture, returned with serious illnesses. Patients whose diagnosis of serious illness was facilitated by blood culture results had shorter delay in identifying cultures as positive than did patients notified of positive results who did not develop serious illness (16.2 vs 31.6 hours; Ρ < 0.05). The delay in follow-up of children with occult bacteremia limits the usefulness of blood cultures in the early detection of serious illness. In our study, most of the delay was attributable to the time it took for cultures to be identified as positive. Techniques that speed the identification of positive blood cultures will be beneficial to outpatients with bacteremia. Although patients usually return promptly after being contacted, many patients with occult bacteremia were not reached. EDs must ensure that children at risk for the complications of bacteremia have prompt follow-up.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)258-261
Number of pages4
JournalPediatric Emergency Care
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1992


  • Bacteremia
  • Follow-up
  • Occult bacteremia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Emergency Medicine


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