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Quality Standard for Antimicrobial Prophylaxis in Surgical Procedures

  • E. Patchen Dellinger (a1), Peter A. Gross (a2), Trisha L. Barrett (a3), Peter J. Krause (a4), William J. Martone (a5), John E. McGowan (a6), Richard L. Sweet (a7) and Richard P. Wenzel (a8)...



The objectives of this quality standard are 1) to provide an implementation mechanism that will facilitate the reliable administration of prophylactic antimicrobial agents to patients undergoing operative procedures in which such a practice is judged to be beneficial and 2) to provide a guideline that will help local hospital committees formulate policies and set up mechanisms for their implementation. Although standards in the medical literature spell out recommendations for specific procedures, agents, schedules, and doses, other reports document that these standards frequently are not followed in practice.


We have specified the procedures in which the administration of prophylactic antimicrobial agents has been shown to be beneficial, those in which this practice is widely thought to be beneficial but in which compelling evidence is lacking, and those in which this practice is controversial. We have examined the evidence regarding the optimal timing of drug administration, the optimal dose, and the optimal duration of prophylaxis.


The intended outcome is more uniform and reliable administration of prophylactic antibiotics in those circumstances where their value has been demonstrated or their use has been judged by the local practicing medical community to be desirable. The result should be a reduction in rates of postoperative wound infection with a limitation on the quantities of antimicrobial agents used in circumstances where they are not likely to help.


Many prospective, randomized, controlled trials comparing placebo with antibiotic and comparing one antibiotic with another have been conducted. In addition, some trials have compared the efficacy of different doses or methods of administration. Other papers have reported on the apparent efficacy of administration at different times and on actual practice in specific communities. Only a small group of relevant articles found through 1993 are cited herein. When authoritative reviews are available, these-rather than an exhaustive list of original references-are cited.


We assumed that reducing rates of postoperative infection was valuable but that reducing the total amount of antimicrobial agents employed was also worthwhile. The cost of and morbidity attributable to postoperative wound infections should be weighed against the cost and potential morbidity associated with excessive use of antimicrobial agents.

Benefits, Harms, and Costs:

More reliable administration of antimicrobial agents according to recognized guidelines should prevent some postoperative wound infections while lowering the total quantity of these drugs used. No harms are anticipated. The costs involved are those of the efforts needed on a local basis to design and implement the mechanism that supports uniform and reliable administration of prophylactic antibiotics.


All patients for whom prophylactic antimicrobial agents are recommended should receive them. The agents given should be appropriate in light of published guidelines. A short duration of prophylaxis (usually < 24 hours) is recommended.


More than 50 experts in infectious disease and 10 experts in surgical infectious disease and surgical subspecialties reviewed the standard. In addition, the methods for its implementation were reviewed by the American Society of Hospital Pharmacists.


The Quality Standards Subcommittee of the Clinical Affairs Committee of the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) developed the standard. The subcommittee was composed of representatives of the IDSA (Drs. Gross and McGowan), the Society for Hospital Epidemiology of America (Dr. Wenzel), the Surgical Infection Society (Dr. Dellinger), the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society (Dr. Krause), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Dr. Martone), the Obstetrics and Gynecology Infectious Diseases Society (Dr. Sweet), and the Association of Practitioners of Infection Control (Ms. Barrett). Funding was provided by the IDSA and the other cooperating organizations. The standard is endorsed by the IDSA.


Corresponding author

Department of Surgery, RF 25, University of Washington Medical Center, 1959 NE Pacific St., Seattle, WA 98195


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