The utility of an in-hospital observation period after discontinuing intravenous antibiotics

Am J Med. 1999 Jan;106(1):6-10. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9343(98)00359-3.


Purpose: To determine whether observing patients overnight in the hospital after intravenous antibiotics have been discontinued is a useful way to identify important clinical events.

Subjects and methods: We performed a retrospective chart review of patients admitted during a 6-month period to a tertiary care teaching hospital with a primary diagnosis of either pneumonia, urinary tract infection, or cellulitis who were treated with intravenous antibiotics. Charts were abstracted for patient characteristics, including comorbid illnesses and laboratory values, as well as for evidence of recurrent infection or other adverse events.

Results: Of the 374 patients in the study, 63 (17%) were discharged on the day intravenous antibiotics were discontinued. These patients were 10 years younger (P = 0.0009) and had fewer comorbid illnesses (P = 0.02) than those who were observed in the hospital. Recurrent infection was noted in 3 (1%; 95% confidence interval 0.2% to 3%) of the 308 patients who were observed. A mild adverse antibiotic reaction was also noted in three observed patients. The readmission rate to the same institution for recurrent infection was 3% for patients with an observation period and 2% for patients without an observation period (P = 0.70).

Conclusions: Observing patients overnight in the hospital after discontinuing intravenous antibiotics is a common clinical practice. There was an extremely low incidence of adverse events during the observation period, and the events that did occur would have been discovered in an outpatient setting. In-hospital observation after discontinuing intravenous antibiotics is unnecessary for most patients with pneumonia, urinary tract infection, or cellulitis and greatly increases health-care costs.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects*
  • Cellulitis / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Inpatients*
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumonia / drug therapy
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Urinary Tract Infections / drug therapy


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents