Febrile neutropenia is associated with a significant risk of complications and mortality. Patients with neutropenia secondary to cytostatic chemotherapy who develop fever are normally admitted to hospital and treated promptly with broad-spectrum antibiotics. Over the last 10 years, chemotherapy for solid tumours has been shifting out of the hospital setting into the ambit of community-based oncologists, and out-patient treatment with complex multidrug protocols is becoming increasingly common. In North America high-dose protocols combined with peripheral blood stem cell transfusion are already being administered on an out-patient basis. With the increase in the numbers of out-patients undergoing multidrug chemotherapy, there has been a corresponding rise in the severity and duration of neutropenia and in the incidence of associated infections. Patients with neutropenia of short duration (<7 days) and fever are at a relatively low risk for complications, and in these circumstances, out-patient antibiotic treatment is an alternative to costly hospitalisation. Drugs, whose antimicrobial coverage and pharmacokinetics make them particularly suitable for out-patient treatment of febrile neutropenia, include intravenous and oral quinolones and, for once-daily dosing, intravenous glycopeptides, ceftriaxone and intravenous aminoglycosides. Response rates of 60–95% have been achieved with such regimens in clinical trials, with hospital admission avoided in 75–95% of the cases. There is no doubt that out-patient treatment improves the quality of life of cancer patients. In Europe, however, there is a need for randomised clinical trials to support the establishment of out-patient-based treatment of febrile neutropenia. Out-patient antibiotic treatment of febrile neutropenia is still not standard practice, and community-based providers of such treatment must be adequately equipped and experienced in the management of this condition.

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