Fever Is associated with reduced mortality in trauma and surgical intensive care unit-acquired infections

William J. Kane*, Taryn E. Hassinger, Nathan R. Elwood, Zachary C. Dietch, Elizabeth D. Krebs, Kimberley A. Popovsky, Traci L. Hedrick, Robert G. Sawyer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Fever is a common response to both infectious and non-infectious physiologic insults in the critically ill, and in certain populations it appears to be protective. Fever is particularly common in trauma patients, and even more so in those with infections. The relationship between fever, trauma status, and mortality in patients with an infection is unclear. Patients and Methods: A review of a prospectively maintained institutional database over a 17-year period was performed. Surgical and trauma intensive care unit (ICU) patients with a nosocomial infection were extracted to compare in-hospital mortality among trauma and non-trauma patients with and without fever. Univariable analyses compared patient and infection characteristics between trauma and non-trauma patients. A multivariable logistic regression model was created to identify predictors of in-hospital mortality, with a focus on fever and trauma status. Results: Nine hundred forty-one trauma patients and 1,449 non-trauma patients with ICU-acquired infections were identified. Trauma patients were younger (48 vs. 59, p < 0.001), more likely to be male (73% vs. 56%, p < 0.001), more likely to require blood transfusion (74% vs. 47%, p < 0.001), had lower Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation (APACHE) II scores (18 vs. 19, p = 0.02), and had lower rates of comorbidities. Trauma patients were more likely to develop a fever (72% vs. 43%, p < 0.001) and had lower in-hospital mortality (9.6% vs. 22.6%, p < 0.001). In multivariable analysis, non-trauma patients with fever had a lower odds of mortality compared with non-trauma patients without fever (odds ratio [OR] 0.63, p = 0.004). Trauma patients with fever had the lowest odds ratio for mortality when compared to non-trauma patients without fever (OR 0.25, p < 0.001). Conclusions: In this large cohort of trauma and surgical ICU patients with ICU-acquired infections, fever was associated with a lower odds of mortality in both trauma and non-trauma patients. Further investigation is needed to determine the mechanisms behind the interplay between trauma status, fever, and mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)174-181
Number of pages8
JournalSurgical Infections
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • critical care
  • fever
  • mortality
  • nosocomial infection
  • surgery
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Surgery


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