The purpose of this study is to determine the rate of prolonged empiric antibiotic therapy in adult ICUs in the United States. Our secondary objective is to examine the relationship between the prolonged empiric antibiotic therapy rate and certain ICU characteristics.
Multicenter, prospective, observational, 72-hour snapshot study.
Sixty-seven ICUs from 32 hospitals in the United States.
Nine hundred ninety-eight patients admitted to the ICU between midnight on June 20, 2011, and June 21, 2011, were included in the study.
Measurements and Main Results:
Antibiotic orders were categorized as prophylactic, definitive, empiric, or prolonged empiric antibiotic therapy. Prolonged empiric antibiotic therapy was defined as empiric antibiotics that continued for at least 72 hours in the absence of adjudicated infection. Standard definitions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were used to determine infection. Prolonged empiric antibiotic therapy rate was determined as the ratio of the total number of empiric antibiotics continued for at least 72 hours divided by the total number of empiric antibiotics. Univariate analysis of factors associated with the ICU prolonged empiric antibiotic therapy rate was conducted using Student t test. A total of 660 unique antibiotics were prescribed as empiric therapy to 364 patients. Of the empiric antibiotics, 333 of 660 (50%) were continued for at least 72 hours in instances where Centers for Disease Control and Prevention infection criteria were not met. Suspected pneumonia accounted for approximately 60% of empiric antibiotic use. The most frequently prescribed empiric antibiotics were vancomycin and piperacillin/tazobactam. ICUs that utilized invasive techniques for the diagnosis of ventilator-associated pneumonia had lower rates of prolonged empiric antibiotic therapy than those that did not, 45.1% versus 59.5% (p = 0.03). No other institutional factor was significantly associated with prolonged empiric antibiotic therapy rate.
Half of all empiric antibiotics ordered in critically ill patients are continued for at least 72 hours in absence of adjudicated infection. Additional studies are needed to confirm these findings and determine the risks and benefits of prolonged empiric therapy in the critically ill.