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Time Savings and Safety of EMS Administration of Antibiotics for Open Fractures.

INTRODUCTION: Early administration of antibiotics for open fractures reduces serious bone and soft tissue infections. The effectiveness of antibiotics in reducing these infections is time-dependent, with various surgical associations recommending administration within one hour of injury, or within one hour of patient arrival to the emergency department (ED). The extent to which prehospital antibiotic administration in these situations might reduce the time to treatment has not been previously reported. The purpose of this study was to describe current prehospital use of antibiotics for traumatic injury, to assess the safety of prehospital antibiotic administration, and to estimate the potential time-savings associated with antibiotic administration by EMS clinicians.

METHODS: This was a retrospective analysis of the 2019 through 2022 ESO Data Collaborative research data set. Included subjects were patients that had a linked ICD-10 code indicating an open extremity fracture and who received prehospital antibiotics. Time to antibiotic administration was calculated as the elapsed time from EMS dispatch until antibiotic administration. The minimum potential time saved by EMS antibiotic administration was calculated as the elapsed time from administration until ED arrival. To assess safety, epinephrine and diphenhydramine administration were used as proxies for the adverse events of anaphylaxis and minor allergic reactions.

RESULTS: There were 523 patients meeting the inclusion criteria. The median (and interquartile range [IQR]) elapsed time from EMS dispatch until antibiotic administration was 31 (IQR: 24-41) minutes. The median potential time savings associated with prehospital antibiotic administration was 15 (IQR: 8-22) minutes. Notably, 144 (27.5%) of the patients who received prehospital antibiotics had total prehospital times exceeding one hour. None of the patients who received antibiotics also received epinephrine for presumed anaphylaxis.

CONCLUSIONS: EMS clinicians were able to safely administer antibiotics to patients with open fractures a median of 15 minutes before arrival at the hospital, and 99 percent of the patients receiving antibiotics had them administered within one hour of EMS dispatch. EMS administration of antibiotics may be a safe way to increase compliance with recommendations for early antibiotic administration for open fractures.

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