Evaluating an admission avoidance pathway for children in the emergency department: outpatient intravenous antibiotics for moderate/severe cellulitis

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Children with moderate/severe cellulitis requiring intravenous antibiotics are usually admitted to hospital. Admission avoidance is attractive but there are few data in children. We implemented a new pathway for children to be treated with intravenous antibiotics at home and aimed to describe the characteristics of patients treated on this pathway and in hospital and to evaluate the outcomes.


This is a prospective, observational cohort study of children aged 6 months–18 years attending the ED with uncomplicated moderate/severe cellulitis in March 2014–January 2015. Patients received either intravenous ceftriaxone at home or intravenous flucloxacillin in hospital based on physician discretion. Primary outcome was treatment failure defined as antibiotic change within 48 hours due to inadequate clinical improvement or serious adverse events. Secondary outcomes include duration of intravenous antibiotics and complications.


115 children were included: 47 (41%) in the home group and 68 (59%) in the hospital group (59 hospital-only, 9 transferred home during treatment). The groups had similar clinical features. 2/47 (4%) of the children in the home group compared with 8/59 (14%) in the hospital group had treatment failure (P=0.10). Duration of intravenous antibiotics (median 1.9 vs 1.8 days, P=0.31) and complications (6% vs 10%, P=0.49) were no different between groups. Home treatment costs less, averaging $A1166 (£705) per episode compared with $A2594 (£1570) in hospital.


Children with uncomplicated cellulitis may be able to avoid hospital admission via a home intravenous pathway. This approach has the potential to provide cost and other benefits of home treatment.

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