Cord blood neutropenia is an independent predictor of early sepsis

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The significance of cord blood neutropenia as a screening tool for early-onset sepsis (EOS) is unclear. The objectives were to define reference values for cord blood neutrophil count and to determine the sensitivity and positive likelihood ratio of cord neutropenia for the detection of EOS.


This retrospective observational cohort study included all mother-infant pairs with deliveries between 2009 and 2014 for whom cord neutrophil counts were routinely done. EOS cases were identified by interrogation of electronic charts. Maternal and perinatal factors were assessed to determine reference values of cord neutrophil. The diagnostic value of neutropenia for detecting EOS was assessed. A nested case-control design was used to measure the value of neutropenia in the detection of EOS in comparison with other risk factors.


A total of 8,590 mother-infant pairs were included. We identified 84 sepsis cases. The neutrophil count was strongly associated with gestational age. Neutropenia adjusted for gestational age was strongly associated with EOS and had good specificity but poor sensitivity. The addition of neutropenia to other EOS risk factors increased sensitivity without decreasing specificity.


Cord blood neutropenia was significantly associated with EOS and the addition of cord neutropenia to current EOS risk factors increased the detection rate of EOS.

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