Therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) is increasingly used to optimize the dosing of beta-lactam antibiotics in critically ill patients. However, beta-lactams are inherently unstable and degrade over time. Hence, patient samples need to be appropriately handled and stored before analysis to generate valid results for TDM. The appropriate handling and storage conditions are not established, with few and conflicting studies on the stability of beta-lactam antibiotics in clinical samples. The aim of this study was to assess the preanalytical stability of piperacillin, tazobactam, meropenem, and ceftazidime in human plasma and whole blood using a liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry method for simultaneous quantification.
A reverse phase liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry method for the quantification of piperacillin, tazobactam, meropenem, and ceftazidime in plasma after protein precipitation was developed and validated. The preanalytical stability of these beta-lactams was assessed in EDTA- and citrate-anticoagulated plasma at 24, 4, and −20°C. The whole blood stability of the analytes in EDTA-anticoagulated tubes was assessed at 24°C. Stability was determined by nonlinear regression analysis defined by the lower limit of the 95th confidence interval of the time to 15% of degradation.
Based on the lower limit of the 95th confidence interval of the time to 15% of degradation, piperacillin, tazobactam, meropenem, and ceftazidime were stable in EDTA-anticoagulated plasma for at least 6 hours at 24°C, 3 days at 4°C, and 4 days at −20°C. Stability in EDTA- and citrate-anticoagulated plasma was similar. Stability in whole blood was similar to plasma at 24°C.
Plasma samples for the TDM of piperacillin, tazobactam, meropenem, and ceftazidime should be processed within 6 hours if kept at room temperature and within 3 days if kept at 4°C. All long-term storage of samples should be at −80°C.