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Should I Get a Blood Culture in a Child Hospitalized With Pneumonia? :

June 19, 2019

National guidelines recommend obtaining blood cultures in most children hospitalized with community-acquired pneumonia, although the evidence base for this recommendation is not strong

National guidelines recommend obtaining blood cultures in most children hospitalized with community-acquired pneumonia, although the evidence base for this recommendation is not strong. Blood cultures may be useful as they can identify the etiologic agent causing pneumonia, and help to target antimicrobial therapy.  However, the yield of blood culture among children with pneumonia is low, and contaminated blood cultures are not uncommon, often leading to further testing and treatment.  As a result, pediatricians and emergency physicians often struggle with the decision of whether the child hospitalized with pneumonia requires a blood culture.

This week, we are early releasing a study (10.1542/peds.2018-3090) by Fritz et al. which evaluates the rate of bacteremia among children enrolled in the multi-center Etiology of Pneumonia in the Community (EPIC) study.  The article reports the rate of positivity of blood culture, identifies the factors associated with bacteremia, and whether clinical outcomes differ among bacteremic versus non-bacteremic children.  Given the overall low rate of bacteremia, the authors further explored whether certain populations of children were at higher risk of bacteremia, including children with evidence of empyema or those hospitalized in an intensive care unit.

Unlike most other studies evaluating the rate of bacteremia in children hospitalized with pneumonia in which blood culture was performed at the discretion of the treating clinician, all children enrolled in this study had a blood culture obtained, increasing the generalizability of these findings. This large prospective epidemiological study provides the strongest evidence to date of just what the prevalence of bacteremia in children hospitalized with pneumonia really is.  

Should we change our “culture” of getting a culture in children hospitalized with pneumonia? You’ll need to read the study yourself to decide!

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