Cancer Keys: COVID-19 and Neutropenic Sepsis

4th December 2020

Neutropenic sepsis is a potentially fatal complication of anticancer treatment (particularly chemotherapy).

Helpful hint:

NICE have produced a COVID-19 rapid guideline on the delivery of systemic anticancer treatments. If patients present with COVID-19 symptoms this guidance recommends:

  • Be aware that patients having systemic anticancer treatments are immunocompromised and may have atypical presentations of COVID19. Also, symptoms of COVID‑19, neutropenic sepsis and pneumonitis may be difficult to differentiate at initial presentation.
  • Advise all patients to contact their local cancer chemotherapy helpline (rather than NHS 111) if they feel unwell to ensure their symptoms are appropriately assessed.
  • Screen and triage all patients to assess whether they are known or suspected to have COVID‑19, or have been in contact with someone with confirmed infection.
  • If patients have fever (with or without respiratory symptoms), suspect neutropenic sepsis because this can be rapid and life-threatening, and follow the NICE guideline on neutropenic sepsis, which recommends:
    • referring patients with suspected neutropenic sepsis immediately for assessment in secondary or tertiary care
    • treating suspected neutropenic sepsis as an acute medical emergency and offering empiric antibiotic therapy immediately.

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