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Many Kids Who Undergo Stem Cell Transplants Must Return to Hospital

WEDNESDAY, April 24 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly two-thirds of children who received stem cell transplants were readmitted to the hospital within six months for treatment of problems such as infections and unexplained fevers, a new study finds.

Children who were given stem cells donated by other people were twice as likely to be readmitted as those who received their own stem cells, said the researchers at Dana-Farber/Children's Hospital Cancer Center in Boston.

"No one had ever looked at these data in children," Dr. Leslie Lehmann, clinical director of pediatric stem cell transplantation, said in a cancer center news release. "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."

Lehmann and Harvard Medical School student David Shulman analyzed the medical records of 129 children who had stem cell transplants from 2008 to 2011 and found that 64 percent of them had at least one hospital readmission within 180 days after their transplant.

Fever without a known cause accounted for 39 percent of readmissions, infections for 24 percent, and gastrointestinal problems for 15 percent, the study found.

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

The researchers also found that 79 percent of children who received stem cells from a related or unrelated donor were readmitted, compared with 38 percent of those who received their own stem cells.

The findings are scheduled for presentation at the annual meeting of the American Society of Pediatric Hematology Oncology, taking place this week in Miami. Study data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"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," Lehmann said.

The goal is to identify which patients could be safely treated without requiring hospital admission, she said.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about stem cell transplants and children.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Dana-Farber/Children's Hospital Cancer Center, news release, April 24, 2013

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