Fevers are common in the postoperative period, and adult data indicate that workup for an isolated fever is not warranted in the first 4 postoperative days (PODs). Pediatric literature on the subject similarly questions the value of further investigation during the first 2 PODs. The purpose of this study was to determine the incidence of acute fever in the postoperative pediatric neurosurgical population, as well as to assess the utility of performing further workup on these patients.
A single-institution retrospective study was performed to assess pediatric neurosurgery patients following surgical intervention for the diagnoses of craniosynostosis, Chiari malformation, and brain tumors from 2009 to 2018. Fevers were identified during the first 4 PODs and were defined as a temperature ≥ 38.0°C. The patient charts were queried for urinalysis and urine culture (UA/Ucx), chest radiographs, blood cultures, CSF culture, respiratory viral panel, white blood cell (WBC) count, transfusion history, development of wound infection, and placement of external ventricular drains (EVDs) or lumbar drains. Thirty-day postoperative microbiology results and readmissions were reviewed. Descriptive statistics were performed using logistic regression analysis.
Two hundred thirty-five patients were evaluated, and 61% had developed fevers within the first 4 PODs. Thirty-eight (26.6%) of the 143 febrile patients underwent further workup, and those with high fevers (> 39.0°C) were more likely to undergo further evaluation, which most commonly included UA/Ucx (21.7%). Approximately 1% (2/235) of the patients were found to have an infection during the first 4 days, and 8 additional patients developed a complication following the initial 4 days and within the first 30 PODs. The development of infectious complications within the first 4 PODs did not correlate with acute postoperative fevers (p = 0.997), nor did the development of complications within the 30 days following surgery (p = 0.776); however, multiple days of acute postoperative fevers (p = 0.034) and the presence of an EVD (p = 0.001) were associated with the development of infectious complications within 30 days. Acute postoperative fevers were associated with EVD placement (p = 0.038), as well as blood product transfusions and an increased WBC count (p < 0.001).
Isolated fevers manifesting within the first 4 PODs are rarely associated with an infectious etiology. Additional factors should be taken into consideration when deciding to pursue further investigation.