Ceftriaxone use in the emergency department: Are we doing it right?

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Abstract

Objective

To evaluate the patterns of ceftriaxone use in an urban pediatric emergency department (PED) and to determine if overuse exists based on published guidelines for management of febrile infants.

Methods

We conducted a retrospective study of 229 young febrile patients who received ceftriaxone between January 1 and March 31, 1995, in a large urban PED in a teaching hospital in Atlanta. Patients younger than 3 months, patients with chronic illnesses (eg, sickle cell anemia, HIV), and those who received ceftriaxone for sexually transmitted diseases were excluded.

Results

During the study period, ceftriaxone was administered 289 times to 229 patients (53% male) aged 3 months to 18 years. Sixty patients (26%) received ceftriaxone two or more times for the same illness. Data were stratified based on age, source of fever, temperature, leukocyte count, diagnosis of pneumonia, and visit order (initial or follow-up). At the time of their initial visit, 180 of 229 patients had an identifiable focus of infection (76 had pneumonia), but no source could be identified in the remaining 49. Based on temperature, leukocyte count, and the presence or absence of a focus, ceftriaxone use, as compared with practice guidelines, was justified in 40 of 229 (17.5%) patients, questionable in 43 of 229 (18.8%), and not justified in 146 of 229 (63.7%). For the 60 patients who received ceftriaxone more than once, its use was justified in only 13%. Results of blood cultures were positive in 3 of 229 (1.3%) patients. Ceftriaxone was justified according to published guidelines in two of these three patients, whereas one patient with pneumonia and pneumococcal bacteremia could have been treated with oral antibiotics. Overall, for the entire study population (289 encounters at initial and subsequent visit combined), ceftriaxone use was justified in 48 patients (16.6%), questionable in 49 patients (17%), and not justified in 192 patients (66.4%).

Conclusions

Based on published guidelines, ceftriaxone use in the PED was not justified in the majority of cases.

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