Single dose of antibiotics before surgery sufficient to help prevent infection

November 20, 2006

A single dose of antibiotics prior to surgery appears to prevent infections occurring at the surgical site as effectively as a 24-hour dosing regimen, and with reduced antibiotic costs, according to an article in the November issue of Archives of Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Infections remain an important complication of surgical procedures despite increased knowledge about prevention and technological advances in modern surgery, according to background information in the article. Prophylactic antibiotics--preventive antibiotics given before surgery--have been shown to decrease the occurrence of infection at the site of the surgery. However, due to rising health care costs and concerns about antimicrobial resistance, hospitals have been under pressure to use fewer antibiotics. Most guidelines for the use of prophylactic antibiotics recommend using only one dose prior to surgery; however, surgeons might not comply with this recommendation, sometimes giving patients more than one dose or using broad-spectrum (targeting many types of bacteria) rather than the recommended narrow-spectrum drugs.

Silvia Nunes Szente Fonseca, M.D., M.P.H., Hospital São Francisco, Ribeirão Preto, São Paolo, Brazil, and colleagues studied infection rates before and after the implementation of a one-dose prophylactic antibiotic protocol at a local hospital. "We previously described the successful implementation of an antibiotic prophylaxis program in our hospital, discontinuing prophylactic antibiotic usage after 24 hours and correcting the timing of the first dosage," the authors write. "We decided to reduce all antibiotic prophylaxis to one dose because this measure could safely promote savings for our institution." Under the new protocol, for most procedures, patients are given one 1-gram dose of the antibiotic cephazolin at the same time anesthesia is administered. The protocol was approved by surgeons prior to implementation; education was provided to surgical and medical staff. To assess the effectiveness of this approach, the researchers examined infection rates and costs for 6,140 consecutive patients who had surgery between February 2002 and October 2002 and 6,159 consecutive patients who had surgery between December 2002 and August 2003, following the implementation of the one-dose protocol.

The correct protocol was followed in 6,123 (99 percent) of the surgeries performed after the new guidelines were implemented. Surgical site infections occurred in 127 (2 percent) of surgeries performed under the 24-hour protocol and 133 (2.1 percent) performed under the one-dose protocol. The number of vials of cephazolin purchased decreased from 1,259 in the first time period to 467 in the second, a 63 percent decline that represented a monthly cost savings of $1,980 for this drug alone.

The cooperation and encouragement of hospital administration and clinical staff, as well as educational efforts, contributed to the success of the new protocol, the authors write. "We were able to demonstrate that one-dose prophylaxis is feasible," they conclude. "In this era of restricted hospital budgets and increased bacterial resistance, one-dose prophylaxis may provide a way to improve performance by lowering costs."
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(Arch Surg. 2006;141:1109-1113. Available pre-embargo to the media at www.jamamedia.org.)

Editor's Note: This study was supported by the Waldemar Barnsley Pessoa Foundation and Maternidade Sinha Junqueira Foundation. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

For more information, contact JAMA/Archives Media Relations at 312/464-JAMA (5262) or e-mail mediarelations@jama-archives.org.

The JAMA Network Journals

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