Association of Broad- vs Narrow-Spectrum Antibiotics With Treatment Failure, Adverse Events, and Quality of Life in Children With Acute Respiratory Tract Infections

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Abstract

Importance

Acute respiratory tract infections account for the majority of antibiotic exposure in children, and broad-spectrum antibiotic prescribing for acute respiratory tract infections is increasing. It is not clear whether broad-spectrum treatment is associated with improved outcomes compared with narrow-spectrum treatment.

Objective

To compare the effectiveness of broad-spectrum and narrow-spectrum antibiotic treatment for acute respiratory tract infections in children.

Design, Setting, and Participants

A retrospective cohort study assessing clinical outcomes and a prospective cohort study assessing patient-centered outcomes of children between the ages of 6 months and 12 years diagnosed with an acute respiratory tract infection and prescribed an oral antibiotic between January 2015 and April 2016 in a network of 31 pediatric primary care practices in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Stratified and propensity score–matched analyses to account for confounding by clinician and by patient-level characteristics, respectively, were implemented for both cohorts.

Exposures

Broad-spectrum antibiotics vs narrow-spectrum antibiotics.

Main Outcomes and Measures

In the retrospective cohort, the primary outcomes were treatment failure and adverse events 14 days after diagnosis. In the prospective cohort, the primary outcomes were quality of life, other patient-centered outcomes, and patient-reported adverse events.

Results

Of 30 159 children in the retrospective cohort (19 179 with acute otitis media; 6746, group A streptococcal pharyngitis; and 4234, acute sinusitis), 4307 (14%) were prescribed broad-spectrum antibiotics including amoxicillin-clavulanate, cephalosporins, and macrolides. Broad-spectrum treatment was not associated with a lower rate of treatment failure (3.4% for broad-spectrum antibiotics vs 3.1% for narrow-spectrum antibiotics; risk difference for full matched analysis, 0.3% [95% CI, −0.4% to 0.9%]). Of 2472 children enrolled in the prospective cohort (1100 with acute otitis media; 705, group A streptococcal pharyngitis; and 667, acute sinusitis), 868 (35%) were prescribed broad-spectrum antibiotics. Broad-spectrum antibiotics were associated with a slightly worse child quality of life (score of 90.2 for broad-spectrum antibiotics vs 91.5 for narrow-spectrum antibiotics; score difference for full matched analysis, −1.4% [95% CI, −2.4% to −0.4%]) but not with other patient-centered outcomes. Broad-spectrum treatment was associated with a higher risk of adverse events documented by the clinician (3.7% for broad-spectrum antibiotics vs 2.7% for narrow-spectrum antibiotics; risk difference for full matched analysis, 1.1% [95% CI, 0.4% to 1.8%]) and reported by the patient (35.6% for broad-spectrum antibiotics vs 25.1% for narrow-spectrum antibiotics; risk difference for full matched analysis, 12.2% [95% CI, 7.3% to 17.2%]).

Conclusions and Relevance

Among children with acute respiratory tract infections, broad-spectrum antibiotics were not associated with better clinical or patient-centered outcomes compared with narrow-spectrum antibiotics, and were associated with higher rates of adverse events. These data support the use of narrow-spectrum antibiotics for most children with acute respiratory tract infections.

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