BACKGROUND: At Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, Ontario, the recommended empiric regimen for febrile neutropenia has been cefazolin and tobramycin for at least 25 years. However, we had no objective data to reassure us that patient mortality had not increased over the past five years.METHODS: A retrospective chart review of 48 episodes occurring in 44 patients admitted for the treatment of febrile neutropenia secondary to chemotherapy in 2002, and initially managed with cefazolin and tobramycin was conducted. Prospective data from 48 episodes in 2007 had previously been collected. Patients who developed febrile neutropenia while in hospital were excluded. The primary objective of the present study was to compare the all-cause mortality in 2007 with that from 2002.RESULTS: There were no statistically significant differences between the groups (P>0.05). All-cause mortality in 2007 was 8.3% (four of 48) compared with 10.4% (five of 48) in 2002 (P=1). All deaths occurred in patients considered to be at high risk according to the Talcott score.CONCLUSION: Mortality has not increased in the past five years with the use of empiric cefazolin and tobramycin for the treatment of patients admitted with febrile neutropenia at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Rates are comparable with those reported in the literature for similar patients. The results of the present study provide reassurance that the regimen continues to be effective for lower-risk febrile neutropenic patients.