Hypothesis: Many soft tissue infections treated with surgical drainage resolve even when treated with antibiotics not active against the organism isolated from the infection.
Setting: Integrated Soft Tissue Infection Services clinic.
Patients: All patients treated from July 19, 2000, to August 1, 2001, who underwent surgical drainage of a soft tissue infection and had microbiological culture results.
Main outcome measures: Documented resolution of the infection with drainage of the abscess and antibiotic therapy alone was deemed a cure. An infection resulting in death or other surgical therapy was deemed a failure. Therapy was appropriate when the organism was sensitive to prescribed antibiotics and was inappropriate when the organism was insensitive.
Results: The study included 376 patients with 450 infections. Staphylococcus aureus as the primary organism was isolated from 441 of the cultures. Methicillin sodium-sensitive S aureus and methicillin-resistant S aureus were found in 157 and 284 of these isolates, respectively. Appropriate antibiotics were prescribed in 153 infections with methicillin-sensitive S aureus and in 25 with methicillin-resistant S aureus. Of 441 episodes, 408 were clinically evaluated for cure. Three patients failed treatment, 2 in the appropriately treated group (resulting in death and amputation) and 1 patient with osteomyelitis in the inappropriately treated group. The cure rate for infections treated appropriately or inappropriately was the same.
Conclusions: Treatment of soft tissue infections after surgical drainage, even with inappropriate antibiotics, has a high cure rate. Further studies to evaluate the efficacy of treating these infections without antibiotics are needed.