When not to start antibiotics: avoiding antibiotic overuse in the intensive care unit.

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When not to start antibiotics: avoiding antibiotic overuse in the intensive care unit.

Clin Microbiol Infect. 2020 01;26(1):35-40

Authors: Denny KJ, De Waele J, Laupland KB, Harris PNA, Lipman J

BACKGROUND: Most intensive care unit (ICU) patients receive broad-spectrum antibiotics. While lifesaving in some, in others these treatments may be unnecessary and place patients at risk of antibiotic-associated harms.
OBJECTIVES: To review the literature exploring how we diagnose infection in patients in the ICU and address the safety and utility of a 'watchful waiting' approach to antibiotic initiation with selected patients in the ICU.
SOURCES: A semi-structured search of PubMed and Cochrane Library databases for articles published in English during the past 15 years was conducted.
CONTENT: Distinguishing infection from non-infectious mimics in ICU patients is uniquely challenging. At present, we do not have access to a rapid point-of-care test that reliably differentiates between individuals who need antibiotics and those who do not. A small number of studies have attempted to compare early aggressive versus conservative antimicrobial strategies in the ICU. However, this body of literature is small and not robust enough to guide practice.
IMPLICATIONS: This issue will not likely be resolved until there are diagnostic tests that rapidly and reliably identify the presence or absence of infection in the ICU population. In the meantime, prospective trials that identify clinical situations wherein it is safe to delay or withhold antibiotic initiation in the ICU until the presence of an infection is proven are warranted.

PMID: 31306790 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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