Updated: 12/19/2019

Post-Operative Fever

Review Topic
3 3
2 2
  • A 42-year-old male underwent a Heller myotomy with subsequent Toupet partial fundoplication via a laparoscopy. The surgery was uneventful, and the patient is doing well on the floor. However, on the third post-operative day, the nurse has noted the patient has a fever or 101.5°F. The patient has been using his incentive spirometer as instructed. Vital signs are only significant for the fever. Labs show a WBC count of 12,300/mm3. Heart and lungs are clear to auscultation, and the surgical port sites are clean, dry, and intact. Abdomen is soft and nontender. There is mild suprapubic discomfort. Urinalysis shows a bacterial count >100,000 cfu/mL and a WBC of 11 cells/microL. The appropriate antibiotic therapy and catheter management was initiated.
  • Fever > 100.4°F (38°C) 
    • may be due to infectious or noninfectious causes 
      • infectious examples: surgical site infection, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, catheter-associated infections
      • noninfectious examples: malignant hyperthermia, medications, deep venous thrombosis
  • In most cases, post-operative fever self resolves without treatment 
    • however, post-operative fever could be the result of a serious infection; therefore, patient evaluation is imperative
  • Stimuli → cytokine release → development of fever 
    • stimuli examples 
      • tissue trauma 
        • degree of trauma correlates with degree of fever response
      • endotoxins or exotoxins from bacteria
    • cytokines associated with fever: 
      • IL-6, IL-1, TNFα, INFγ
Presentation and Management
  • Possible cause of fever based on post-operative days (POD) "Wind, Water, Walking, Wound, Weird"
    • 0 = intraoperative
0 1-2
3 5
7 8 - 14
Wound  Weird - what do we do
  • Malignant hyperthermia
  • Febrile nonhemolytic transfusion (within 1-6 hours of blood transfusion)
  • Atelectasis 
  • Pneumonia
  • Urinary tract infection  
  • Deep venous thrombosis
  • Pulmonary Embolism
  • Wound infection
  • Cellulitis
  • Abscess
  • Medications
  • Discontinue offending agent
  • Administer dantrolene
  • High flow 100% O2
  • Cooling
  • Obtain chest radiograph 
    and sputum cultures
  • Empiric antibiotics if you suspect pneumonia (e.g., vancomycin for MRSA, cefepime, ceftazidime, or pipercillin-tazobactam for gram negative rods)
  • Obtain urinalysis and urine culture
  • Treat with appropriate antibiotics
  • Doppler ultrasonography to detect thrombus in extremitis
  • Heparain with bridge to warfarin
  • Appropriate antibiotics
  • Drainage
  • Assess for personal or family history of malignant hyperthermia
  • Incentivespirometryand getting out of bed may help prevent pulmonary complications
  • Remove catheter if not necessary
  • Pneumatic compression if low risk for DVT
  • LMWH if moderate or high risk for DVT 
    • should determine if patient is at risk for major bleeding
  • Sterile surgical preparation
  • Clean wound



Please rate topic.

Average 5.0 of 4 Ratings

Thank you for rating! Please vote below and help us build the most advanced adaptive learning platform in medicine

The complexity of this topic is appropriate for?
How important is this topic for board examinations?
How important is this topic for clinical practice?
Questions (3)
Lab Values
Blood, Plasma, Serum Reference Range
ALT 8-20 U/L
Amylase, serum 25-125 U/L
AST 8-20 U/L
Bilirubin, serum (adult) Total // Direct 0.1-1.0 mg/dL // 0.0-0.3 mg/dL
Calcium, serum (Ca2+) 8.4-10.2 mg/dL
Cholesterol, serum Rec: < 200 mg/dL
Cortisol, serum 0800 h: 5-23 μg/dL //1600 h:
3-15 μg/dL
2000 h: ≤ 50% of 0800 h
Creatine kinase, serum Male: 25-90 U/L
Female: 10-70 U/L
Creatinine, serum 0.6-1.2 mg/dL
Electrolytes, serum  
Sodium (Na+) 136-145 mEq/L
Chloride (Cl-) 95-105 mEq/L
Potassium (K+) 3.5-5.0 mEq/L
Bicarbonate (HCO3-) 22-28 mEq/L
Magnesium (Mg2+) 1.5-2.0 mEq/L
Estriol, total, serum (in pregnancy)  
24-28 wks // 32-36 wks 30-170 ng/mL // 60-280 ng/mL
28-32 wk // 36-40 wks 40-220 ng/mL // 80-350 ng/mL
Ferritin, serum Male: 15-200 ng/mL
Female: 12-150 ng/mL
Follicle-stimulating hormone, serum/plasma Male: 4-25 mIU/mL
Female: premenopause: 4-30 mIU/mL
midcycle peak: 10-90 mIU/mL
postmenopause: 40-250
pH 7.35-7.45
PCO2 33-45 mmHg
PO2 75-105 mmHg
Glucose, serum Fasting: 70-110 mg/dL
2-h postprandial:<120 mg/dL
Growth hormone - arginine stimulation Fasting: <5 ng/mL
Provocative stimuli: > 7ng/mL
Immunoglobulins, serum  
IgA 76-390 mg/dL
IgE 0-380 IU/mL
IgG 650-1500 mg/dL
IgM 40-345 mg/dL
Iron 50-170 μg/dL
Lactate dehydrogenase, serum 45-90 U/L
Luteinizing hormone, serum/plasma Male: 6-23 mIU/mL
Female: follicular phase: 5-30 mIU/mL
midcycle: 75-150 mIU/mL
postmenopause 30-200 mIU/mL
Osmolality, serum 275-295 mOsmol/kd H2O
Parathyroid hormone, serume, N-terminal 230-630 pg/mL
Phosphatase (alkaline), serum (p-NPP at 30° C) 20-70 U/L
Phosphorus (inorganic), serum 3.0-4.5 mg/dL
Prolactin, serum (hPRL) < 20 ng/mL
Proteins, serum  
Total (recumbent) 6.0-7.8 g/dL
Albumin 3.5-5.5 g/dL
Globulin 2.3-3.5 g/dL
Thyroid-stimulating hormone, serum or plasma .5-5.0 μU/mL
Thyroidal iodine (123I) uptake 8%-30% of administered dose/24h
Thyroxine (T4), serum 5-12 μg/dL
Triglycerides, serum 35-160 mg/dL
Triiodothyronine (T3), serum (RIA) 115-190 ng/dL
Triiodothyronine (T3) resin uptake 25%-35%
Urea nitrogen, serum 7-18 mg/dL
Uric acid, serum 3.0-8.2 mg/dL
Hematologic Reference Range
Bleeding time 2-7 minutes
Erythrocyte count Male: 4.3-5.9 million/mm3
Female: 3.5-5.5 million mm3
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (Westergren) Male: 0-15 mm/h
Female: 0-20 mm/h
Hematocrit Male: 41%-53%
Female: 36%-46%
Hemoglobin A1c ≤ 6 %
Hemoglobin, blood Male: 13.5-17.5 g/dL
Female: 12.0-16.0 g/dL
Hemoglobin, plasma 1-4 mg/dL
Leukocyte count and differential  
Leukocyte count 4,500-11,000/mm3
Segmented neutrophils 54%-62%
Bands 3%-5%
Eosinophils 1%-3%
Basophils 0%-0.75%
Lymphocytes 25%-33%
Monocytes 3%-7%
Mean corpuscular hemoglobin 25.4-34.6 pg/cell
Mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration 31%-36% Hb/cell
Mean corpuscular volume 80-100 μm3
Partial thromboplastin time (activated) 25-40 seconds
Platelet count 150,000-400,000/mm3
Prothrombin time 11-15 seconds
Reticulocyte count 0.5%-1.5% of red cells
Thrombin time < 2 seconds deviation from control
Plasma Male: 25-43 mL/kg
Female: 28-45 mL/kg
Red cell Male: 20-36 mL/kg
Female: 19-31 mL/kg
Cerebrospinal Fluid Reference Range
Cell count 0-5/mm3
Chloride 118-132 mEq/L
Gamma globulin 3%-12% total proteins
Glucose 40-70 mg/dL
Pressure 70-180 mm H2O
Proteins, total < 40 mg/dL
Sweat Reference Range
Chloride 0-35 mmol/L
Calcium 100-300 mg/24 h
Chloride Varies with intake
Creatinine clearance Male: 97-137 mL/min
Female: 88-128 mL/min
Estriol, total (in pregnancy)  
30 wks 6-18 mg/24 h
35 wks 9-28 mg/24 h
40 wks 13-42 mg/24 h
17-Hydroxycorticosteroids Male: 3.0-10.0 mg/24 h
Female: 2.0-8.0 mg/24 h
17-Ketosteroids, total Male: 8-20 mg/24 h
Female: 6-15 mg/24 h
Osmolality 50-1400 mOsmol/kg H2O
Oxalate 8-40 μg/mL
Potassium Varies with diet
Proteins, total < 150 mg/24 h
Sodium Varies with diet
Uric acid Varies with diet
Body Mass Index (BMI) Adult: 19-25 kg/m2

Question locked
Sorry, this question is for
PEAK Premium Subscribers only
Upgrade to PEAK
Question locked
Sorry, this question is for
PEAK Premium Subscribers only
Upgrade to PEAK

You have 100% on this question.
Just skip this one for now.

(M2.ID.17.4799) A 56-year-old woman is one week status post abdominal hysterectomy when she develops a fever of 101.4°F (38.6°C). Her past medical history is significant for type II diabetes mellitus and a prior history of alcohol abuse. The operative report and intraoperative cystoscopy indicate that the surgery was uncomplicated. The nurse reports that since the surgery, the patient has also complained of worsening lower abdominal pain. She has given the patient the appropriate pain medications with little improvement. The patient has tolerated an oral diet well and denies nausea, vomiting, or abdominal distension. Her blood pressure is 110/62 mmHg, pulse is 122/min, and respirations are 14/min. Since being given 1000 mL of intravenous fluids yesterday, the patient has excreted 800 mL of urine. On physical exam, she is uncomfortable, shivering, and sweating. The surgical site is intact, but the surrounding skin appears red. No drainage is appreciated. The abdominal examination reveals tenderness to palpation and hypoactive bowel sounds. Labs and a clean catch urine specimen are obtained as shown below:

Leukocyte count and differential:
Leukocyte count: 18,000/mm^3
Segmented neutrophils: 80%
Bands: 10%
Eosinophils: 1%
Basophils: < 1%
Lymphocytes: 5%
Monocytes: 4%
Platelet count: 300,000/mm^3

Hemoglobin: 12.5 g/dL
Hematocrit: 42%

Epithelial cells: 15/hpf
Glucose: positive
RBC: 1/hpf
WBC: 2/hpf
Bacteria: 50 cfu/mL
Ketones: none
Nitrites: negative
Leukocyte esterase: negative

Which of the following is most likely the cause of this patient’s symptoms?
Review Topic | Tested Concept

QID: 109332

Alcohol withdrawal




Surgical error




Post-operative ileus




Urinary tract infection




Wound infection



L 2 D

Select Answer to see Preferred Response

Evidences (2)
Topic COMMENTS (0)
Private Note