My elderly patient has a WBC count of 60,000 without obvious hematologic malignancy.  How likely is it that his leukocytosis is related to an infection?

Although extremely high WBC count in the absence of myeloproliferative disease may be associated with solid tumors and other causes, infections are often the most common cause of leukemoid reaction (LR), including tuberculosis, Clostridiodes difficile colitis, shigellosis, salmonellosis, pneumonia, abscesses, as well as  parasitic infections (eg, malaria), fungal infections (mucormycosis), and viral diseases (eg, HIV, EBV, Chickungunya fever).1-4   

In a study of 173 hospitalized patients (mean age 69 y) with leukemoid reaction (defined in this study as WBC ≥30,000/µl), infection was the most common cause of LR (48%), followed by tissue ischemia/stress (28%), inflammation (eg, pancreatitis, diverticulitis without perforation) and obstetric diagnoses (7% each) and malignant tumor (5%).1 

In the same study, the most common infections were “sepsis”, pneumonia and urinary tract infections.  Bacteremia was documented in 13%, while Clostridiodes difficile toxin assay was positive in 7% of patients.  The highest WBC counts were observed in patients with either a positive blood culture or positive C. difficile toxin.  In-hospital mortality rate was very high at 62%.

Similarly, in a study involving 105 hospitalized patients, the most common cause was infection, followed by malignancy and other causes. 2 In a smaller study of 25 patients with “extreme” leukocytosis (defined as WBC ≥50,000/µl) infection was considered the cause in 52% and malignancy in 44% of patients; about one-third were bacteremic (eg, Pseudomonas sp, Streptococcus pneumoniae, E. coli).3

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that besides infections and malignancy, drugs (eg, corticosteroids, epinephrine) and ingestion of ethylene glycol have also been associated with LR? 1,3,4

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References

  1. Potasman I, Grupper M. Leukemoid reaction:Spectrum and prognosis of 173 adult patients. Clin Infect Dis 2013;57:e177-81. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23994818/
  2. Portich JP, Faulhaber GAM. Leudemoid reaction: A 21st-century study. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31765058/
  3. Halkes CJM, Dijstelbloem HM, Eelman Rooda SJ, et al. Extreme leucocytosis: not always leukaemia. The Netherlands J Med 2007;65:248-51. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17656811/
  4. Kumar P, Charaniya R, Sahoo R, et al. Leukemoid reaction in Chickungunya fever. J Clin Diagn Res 2016;10:OD05-OD06. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4948452/

 

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

My elderly patient has a WBC count of 60,000 without obvious hematologic malignancy.  How likely is it that his leukocytosis is related to an infection?

When should surgery be considered in my hospitalized patient with divertculitis?

Severe diffuse abdominal pain, fever, tachycardia, leukocytosis or other signs of sepsis and diffuse peritonitis indicative of free perforation requires emergent surgery. Urgent surgery should be considered when your patient fails to improve (eg, abdominal pain or the inability to tolerate enteral nutrition, bowel obstruction, or infection-related ileus) despite medical therapy or percutaneous drainage. 1,2

Lower threshold for surgical intervention is also needed in transplant patients, patients on chronic corticosteroid therapy, other immunosuppressed patients and those with chronic renal failure or collagen-vascular disease because these patients have a significantly greater risk of recurrent, complicated diverticulitis requiring emergency surgery. Overall, up to 20% of patients with acute diverticulitis undergo surgery during the same hospitalization.2

For patients with recurrent uncomplicated diverticulitis, decision regarding future elective surgery should be individualized. Although older guidelines recommended surgery after 2 attacks of uncomplicated diverticulitis, more recent guidelines place less emphasis on the number of episodes and stress the importance of considering the severity of the attacks, chronic or lingering symptoms, inability to exclude carcinoma, overall medical condition of the patient, risks of surgery, and the impact of diverticulitis on the patient’s lifestyle.1,2

Of interest, a decision analysis model suggests that elective resection after a fourth episode may be as safe as earlier resection.3

 

References

  1. Young-Fadok TM. Diverticulitis. N Eng J Med 2018;397:1635-42 https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMcp1800468
  2. Feingold D, Steele SM, Lee S, et al. Practice parameters for the treatment of sigmoid diverticulitis. Dis Colon Rectum 2014;57:284-94. https://www.fascrs.org/sites/default/files/downloads/publication/practice_parameters_for_the_treatment_of_sigmoid.2.pdf
  3. Salem L, Veenstra DL, Sullivan SD, et al. The timing of elective colectomy in diverticulitis: A decision analysis. J Am Coll Surg 2004;199:904-12. https://www.journalacs.org/article/S1072-7515(04)01000-2/fulltext

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When should surgery be considered in my hospitalized patient with divertculitis?

My 70 year old male patient with recent hip fracture has developed fevers with sterile pyuria. How do I interpret the sterile pyuria in this patient?

Although historically sterile pyuria (SP) has been associated with genitourinary (GU) tuberculosis, there are many more common causes to consider in the hospitalized patient (1-3).    

Recent antibiotic exposure (within past 2 weeks) in the setting of UTI is one of the most frequent causes.  Prostatitis is also an often overlooked cause.  Sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and Chlamydia trachomatis should also be considered in at risk patients. Hospitalized patients with systemic infections outside of the GU tract (e.g. pneumonia, appendicitis, diverticulitis) may also have SP (1-3). High prevalence of SP (>70%) has been reported among patients with appendicitis or diverticulitis (2). 

Non-infectious causes include current or recent catheterization of bladder, urinary stones, stents, GU malignancy, papillary necrosis,  Kawasaki’s disease, autoimmune diseases (eg, SLE) and analgesic nephropathy. 

I would start with repeating the u/a as 50% of sterile pyuria may be transient (3). If repeat u/a still shows pyuria, a prostate exam in our elderly male is indicated to exclude prostatitis. 

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References:

  1. Wise GJ, Schlegel PN. Sterile pyuria. N Engl J Med 372;11:1048-54. https://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMra1410052
  2.  Goonewardene S, Persad R. Sterile pyuria: a forgotten entity. Ther Adv urol 2015; 7:295-298.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4549703/ 
  3. Hooker JB, Mold JW, Kumar S. Sterile pyuria in patients admitted to the hospital with infections outside of the urinary tract. J Am Board Fam Med 2014;2&:97-103. https://www.jabfm.org/content/27/1/97.long#T1 

Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, its affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

My 70 year old male patient with recent hip fracture has developed fevers with sterile pyuria. How do I interpret the sterile pyuria in this patient?