An Exploratory and Qualitative Analysis of Self-Reported Evaluations for Fever

Scientific Studies Committee of the Surgical Infection Society

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Despite the high prevalence of post-operative fever, a variety of approaches are taken as to the components of a fever evaluation, when it should be undertaken, and when empiric antibiotic agents should be started. Hypothesis: There is a lack of consensus surrounding many common components of a post-operative fever evaluation. Patients and Methods: The Surgical Infection Society membership was surveyed to determine practices surrounding evaluation of post-operative fever. Eight scenarios were posed in febrile (38.5°C), post-operative general surgery or trauma patients, with 19 possible components of work-up (physical examination, complete blood count [CBC], fungal biomarkers, lactate and procalcitonin [PCT] concentrations, cultures, imaging) and management (antibiotic agents). Each scenario was then re-considered for intensive care unit (ICU) patients (intubated/unstable hemodynamics). Agreement on a parameter (<1/4 or >3/4 of respondents) achieved consensus, positive or negative. Parameters between had equipoise; α was set at 0.05. Results: Among the examined scenarios, only CBC and physical examination received positive consensus across most scenarios. Blood/urine cultures, imaging, lactate, inflammatory biomarkers, and the empiric administration of antibiotic agents did not reach consensus; support was variable depending on the clinical scenario, illness severity, and the individual preferences of the answering clinician. The qualitative portion of the survey identified ‘‘fever threshold and duration,’’ ‘‘clinical suspicion,’’ and ‘‘physiologic manifestation’’ as the most important factors for deciding about the initiation of a fever evaluation and the potential empiric administration of antibiotic agents. Conclusions: There is consensus only for physical and examination routine laboratory work when initiating the evaluation of febrile post-operative patients. However, there are multiple components of a fever evaluation that individual respondents would select depending on the clinical scenario and severity of illness. Parameters demonstrating equipoise are potential candidates for formal guidance or pragmatic prospective trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-124
Number of pages9
JournalSurgical Infections
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • fever diagnostics
  • fever work-up
  • hospital-acquired infections
  • post-operative fever


Dive into the research topics of 'An Exploratory and Qualitative Analysis of Self-Reported Evaluations for Fever'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this