Treating Wisely: The Surgeon's Role in Antibiotic Stewardship

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Abstract

Antibiotic resistance continues to receive national attention as a leading public health threat. In 2015, President Barack Obama proposed a National Action Plan to Combat Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria to curb the rise of “superbugs,” bacteria resistant to antibiotics of last resort. Whereas many antibiotics are prescribed appropriately to treat infections, there continue to be a large number of inappropriately prescribed antibiotics. Although much of the national attention with regards to stewardship has focused on primary care providers, there is a significant opportunity for surgeons to embrace this national imperative and improve our practices. Local quality improvement efforts suggest that antibiotic misuse for surgical disease is common. Opportunities exist as part of day-to-day surgical care as well as through surgeons’ interactions with nonsurgeon colleagues and policy experts. This article discusses the scope of the antibiotic misuse in surgery for surgical patients, and provides immediate practice improvements and also advocacy efforts surgeons can take to address the threat. We believe that surgical antibiotic prescribing patterns frequently do not adhere to evidence-based practices; surgeons are in a position to mitigate their ill effects; and antibiotic stewardship should be a part of every surgeons’ practice.

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