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2 in 3 Children Readmitted to Hospital After Stem Cell Transplants, Study Reveals

Update Date: Apr 24, 2013 11:03 AM EDT

Nearly two in three children have to be readmitted to hospital for treatment of unexplained fevers, infections or other problems within six months of receiving stem cell transplants, a new study has revealed.

What's more, researchers found that children who received donor cells were twice as likely to be readmitted as children who received their own stem cells.

"No one had ever looked at these data in children," Dr. Leslie E. Lehmann, clinical director of pediatric stem cell transplantation at Dana-Farber/Children's Hospital Cancer Center in Boston. "This is very important information and will allow us to counsel families appropriately, as well as try to devise interventions that reduce the rate of readmissions."

The latest study, presented at the 26th annual meeting of the American Society of Pediatric Hematology Oncology in Miami, revealed that 64 percent of the 129 children in the study who received stem cell transplants from 2008 to 2011 had at least one hospital readmission within 180 days of transplant.

The study found that the source of the donor cells was a key predictor, with 79 percent of patients receiving transplants from a donor being readmitted compared to 38 percent who received their own cells.

The study found that the average number of readmissions was 2.4, which means that for some children, hospital discharge after transplant is just the beginning of a long process characterized by repeated hospital stays, researchers said.

The study found that 39 percent of the hospital readmissions were for fever without a documented source of infection, 24 percent were for infections and 15 percent were for gastrointestinal problems.

"Most of the patients went on to be successfully treated and ultimately did very well," Lehmann said in a statement.

"We hope these findings can eventually lead to identifying a group of low-risk children who could be managed at local hospitals rather than transplant centers, reducing costs and inconvenience to families," she added.

Researchers said the next step is to identify which patients could be safely treated without requiring hospital readmission.

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