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Neutropenia Sepsis

Neutorpenia, known as Neutopenic sepsis remains an important cause for concern for chemotherapy patients.  It may even be fatal if treatment is delayed.  This can come on quite rapidly but is usually worse 7-14 days after chemotherapy. 

Patients should be given the following information:-

The condition develops when low white blood cells, especially the type which fight bacterial infections called neutrophils (neutropenia) do not cause any symptoms until an infection develops.  The symptoms of neutropenic sepsis include fever and rigors (shivers). 

A normal temperature is between 36 and 37.2C.  Patients felling unwell are advised to check their temperature.  If it is around 38C check it again in 1 hour and contact the hospital if it is still raised.  If it is 38.5C or above ring the hospital straight away.  Some patients may not have these symptoms but just feel generally unwell. 

In addition there may be more specific symptoms related to the source of infection such as diarrhoea, cough or cystitis. 

It is essential for any patient who is having chemotherapy to seek immediate medical attention if they develop any of these symptoms. 

They will need to be thoroughly assessed and have an urgent blood count.  All patients with neutropenia and fever will be admitted for intravenous antibiotics with few exceptions.  If this treatment is delayed, there is a serious risk of rapid deterioration into shock and even death.  For this reason patients are generally advised to contact the Cancer Centre under which they are receiving treatment rather than to see their general practitioners. 

Remember steroid (Prednisolone or Dexamethasone), Paracetamol or Aspirin tablets can make your temperature read normal even if you have an infection.

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