The efficacy of routine outpatient management without abtibiotics of fever in selected infants

M. Douglas Baker, Louis M. Bell, Jeffrey R. Avner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


Background: A previous study produced a protocol for outpatient management of febrile infants (FIs) judged to be at low for serious bacterial illness (SBI). This Philadelphia protocol demonstrated that 40% of FIs seen in the emergency department could be safely managed without antibiotics at home; and it was established by the emergency department staff as the standard of care at our institution. Objective. To determine 1) the actual practices of management of FIs 18 months after establishment of the Philadelphia protocol as the standard of care, and 2) the continued efficacy of noninvasive outpatient management of fever in FIs who, using the Philadelphia protocol, were indentified as low risk for SBI. Design. Thirty- six month consecutive cohort study. Setting. Urban pediatric emergency department. Participants. Four hundred twenty-two infants, 29 to 60 days of age, with rectal temperatures ≥38.0°C. Interventions. After a complete history taking, physical examination, and workup for SBI, infants were managed at the discretion of the attending physician in the emergency department. Subsequently, those management practices were reviewed and compliance with the Philadelphia protocol was evaluated. In addition, the overall efficacy and safety of that standard during 8 years of use was assessed. Results. Of the 422 FIs enrolled, 101 (24%) were prospectively identified as low risk for SBI, and safe for management without antibiotics. Twenty-eight (6%) FIs were managed out of accordance with the Philadelphia protocol. Seven were admitted out of accordance, and 11 inpatients (1 with bacterial gastroenteritis) initially received no antibiotics out of accordance with the protocol. Physician failure to consider the results of the complete blood count or urinalysis accounted for errors involving FIs with SBI. None of the 43 FIs with SBI were identified by the Philadelphia protocol to be at low risk for SBI. Conclusions. The Philadelphia protocol for outpatient management without antibiotics of FIs at low risk for SBI remains practical, reliable, and safe. Because breaches do occur, physicians must carefully scrutinize protocol compliance, especially with regard to the complete blood count and urinalysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)627-631
Number of pages5
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Febrile infant
  • Fever

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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