Background: The rise in the use of antibiotics has resulted in increasing health care costs and the emergence of resistant bacteria. Little is known about the general misuse of antibiotics in hospitalized children. We evaluated the utilization of antibiotics in a pediatric teaching hospital aiming to identify targets for improvement of prescription.
Patients and methods: Clinical, radiological, laboratory and treatment data of patients hospitalized in a pediatric medical and a pediatric surgery ward were prospectively collected during a 6-week period. A subsequent review of the collected data by a pediatric infectious diseases specialist, taking into consideration existing in-house treatment guidelines, was carried out.
Results: A total of 125 (36%) of 349 patients was prescribed 246 antibiotics. The median length of hospital stay for children prescribed antibiotics was 5 days (range, 2-30 days) and for those not prescribed 3 days (1-32 days; p < 0.001). Of 154 patients in the medical ward, 64 (42%) received antibiotics, compared to 61 (31%) of 195 patients in the surgical ward (p < 0.05). Empirical prescriptions were more frequent than prophylactic ones, which were more frequent than therapeutic prescriptions (136 [55%] vs 94 [38%] vs 16 [7%]; p < 0.001). Overall, 85% of the prescriptions were considered justified. The rates of inappropriate prescriptions were similar in the medical and surgical ward, and higher for therapeutic (19%) or prophylactic treatment (18%) than for empirical treatment (12%). Higher inappropriate prescription rates were noted for macrolides than for co-trimoxazole and beta-lactams (50% vs 18% and 15%, respectively; p < 0.05).
Conclusion: Efforts need to be undertaken towards continuous education of medical staff on judicious antibiotic use, as well as ensuring compliance with existing guidelines. Improvement in the availability of rapid diagnostic methods to discern viral from bacterial infections may help reduce the numbers of empiric therapies in favor of pathogen-targeted therapeutic treatments.