Subgroup Analysis of Antibiotic Treatment for Skin Abscesses

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Abstract

Study objective

Two large randomized trials recently demonstrated efficacy of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)–active antibiotics for drained skin abscesses. We determine whether outcome advantages observed in one trial exist across lesion sizes and among subgroups with and without guideline-recommended antibiotic indications.

Methods

We conducted a planned subgroup analysis of a double-blind, randomized trial at 5 US emergency departments, demonstrating superiority of trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (320/1,600 mg twice daily for 7 days) compared with placebo for patients older than 12 years with a drained skin abscess. We determined between-group differences in rates of clinical (no new antibiotics) and composite cure (no new antibiotics or drainage) through 7 to 14 and 42 to 56 days after treatment among subgroups with and without abscess cavity or erythema diameter greater than or equal to 5 cm, history of MRSA, fever, diabetes, and comorbidities. We also evaluated treatment effect by lesion size and culture result.

Results

Among 1,057 mostly adult participants, median abscess cavity and erythema diameters were 2.5 cm (range 0.1 to 16.0 cm) and 6.5 cm (range 1.0 to 38.5), respectively; 44.3% grew MRSA. Overall, for trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and placebo groups, clinical cure rate at 7 to 14 days was 92.9% and 85.7%; composite cure rate at 7 to 14 days was 86.5% and 74.3%, and at 42 to 56 days, it was 82.4% and 70.2%. For all outcomes, across lesion sizes and among subgroups with and without guideline antibiotic criteria, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole was associated with improved outcomes. Treatment effect was greatest with history of MRSA infection, fever, and positive MRSA culture.

Conclusion

Treatment with trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole was associated with improved outcomes regardless of lesion size or guideline antibiotic criteria.

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