A new study points to a disturbing trend in emergency rooms. The study shows that emergency room doctors are underestimating the possibility of serious bacterial infections in children presenting themselves with fevers.
The authors of the study concluded, “”Emergency department physicians tend to underestimate the likelihood of serious bacterial infection in young children with fever, leading to under-treatment with antibiotics. A clinical diagnostic model could improve decision making by increasing sensitivity for detecting serious bacterial infection, thereby improving early treatment.”
For example, the study found that urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and bacteremia occur in approximately 7% of children who present with a fever. However, only 70-80% of those children are prescribed with the proper antibiotics with 20% who do not have any signs of bacterial infection are over treated with antibiotics.
The study also noted, “In most cases, the cause of a febrile illness is a self limiting, presumed viral, infection, but 5-10% of febrile children have serious bacterial infections such as pneumonia, urinary tract infection, meningitis,, bacteremia,or bone or joint infection (which usually present with fever).). These conditions can be difficult to distinguish from viral infections and benefit from early antibiotic therapy. The consequences of a delayed or missed diagnosis can be serious and, occasionally, fatal.”
The study was published by BMJ (British Medical Journal).
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