Fever of unknown origin (FUO): Which are the factors influencing the final diagnosis? A 2005-2015 systematic review

Francesco Maria Fusco, Raffaella Pisapia, Salvatore Nardiello, Stefano Domenico Cicala, Giovanni Battista Gaeta, Giuseppina Brancaccio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The differential diagnosis of Fever of Unknown Origin (FUO) is very extensive, and includes infectious diseases (ID), neoplasms and noninfectious inflammatory diseases (NIID). Many FUO remain undiagnosed. Factors influencing the final diagnosis of FUO are unclear. Methods: To identify factors associated with FUO diagnostic categories, we performed a systematic review of classical FUO case-series published in 2005-2015 and including patients from 2000. Moreover, to explore changing over time, we compared these case-series with those published in 1995-2004. Results: Eighteen case-series, including 3164 patients, were included. ID were diagnosed in 37.8% of patients, NIID in 20.9%, and neoplasm in 11.6%, FUO were undiagnosed in 23.2%. NIIDs significantly increased over time. An association exists between study country income level and ID (increasing when the income decreases) and undiagnosed FUO (increasing when the income increases); even if not significant, the use of a pre-defined Minimal Diagnostic Work-up to qualify a fever as FUO seems to correlate with a lower prevalence of infections and a higher prevalence of undiagnosed FUO. The multivariate regression analysis shows significant association between geographic area, with ID being more frequent in Asia and Europe having the higher prevalence of undiagnosed FUO. Significant associations were found with model of study and FUO defining criteria, also. Conclusions: Despite advances in diagnostics, FUO still remains a challenge, with ID still representing the first cause. The main factors influencing the diagnostic categories are the income and the geographic position of the study country.

Original languageEnglish
Article number653
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 22 2019


  • Diagnostic outcomes
  • Fever of unknown origin
  • Infectious diseases
  • Neoplasms
  • Noninfectious inflammatory diseases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases


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