JOURNAL ARTICLE

Continuity of antibiotic therapy in patients admitted from the emergency department

Manish N Shah, Jacquie Schmit, William C Croley, David Meltzer
Annals of Emergency Medicine 2003, 42 (1): 117-23
12827131

STUDY OBJECTIVE: We describe discontinuities in antibiotic therapy in patients with community-acquired pneumonia admitted from the emergency department (ED) to an inpatient unit.

METHODS: We performed a retrospective cohort study of patients with community-acquired pneumonia admitted from the ED to the internal medicine service at an academic tertiary care hospital between July 1997 and June 1999. We characterized the frequency of antibiotic delays after arrival on the inpatient unit in relation to antibiotic dosing intervals. We performed paired analysis on the patients treated both with an antibiotic dosed every 6 hours and an antibiotic dosed every 24 hours.

RESULTS: Three hundred seventy-five patients were identified. The mean age was 61 years. Sixty-two percent were female. Five hundred fifty-one antibiotic doses were started in the ED and continued on the inpatient unit, with 177 ordered every 6 hours, and 351 ordered every 24 hours. Seventy-five percent of the antibiotics dosed every 6 hours and 19% of the antibiotics dosed every 24 hours were delayed more than 30 minutes (P <.001). Analysis of the 146 patients receiving both an antibiotic dosed every 6 and 24 hours showed that the first inpatient dose of antibiotics administered every 6 hours were 10 times more likely to be delayed than antibiotics dosed every 24 hours (95% confidence interval 5.0 to 23). The median delay for antibiotics dosed every 6 hours was 258 minutes (range 45 to 3,360 minutes), and the median delay for antibiotics dosed every 24 hours was 192 minutes (range 32 to 2,124 minutes).

CONCLUSION: Discontinuous therapy, represented through a delayed first inpatient antibiotic dose, is common in patients with community-acquired pneumonia admitted from the ED. Although the effect on outcome is unknown, theoretical concerns should lead emergency physicians to consider using longer-acting antibiotics to minimize delayed therapy.

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