Background: A consensus conference recommended empirical antibiotic therapy for all patients with postoperative meningitis and treatment withdrawal after 48 or 72 h if cerebrospinal fluid culture results are negative. However, this approach is not universally accepted and has not been assessed in clinical trials.
Methods: We performed a cohort study of all patients who received a diagnosis of postoperative meningitis from January 1998 through May 2005 in a teaching hospital. From January 1998 through September 2003 (control period), guidelines were lacking or were not implemented. From October 2003 through May 2005 (interventional period), all patients received a predefined intravenous antibiotic therapy that was discontinued on the third day if the meningitis was considered aseptic. Clinical outcome and duration of antibiotic therapy were analyzed for each patient.
Results: Seventy-five episodes of postoperative meningitis (21 cases of bacterial meningitis and 54 cases of aseptic meningitis) were investigated. Patients with aseptic meningitis received antibiotic treatment for a mean +/- standard deviation duration of 11+/-5 days during the control period and 3.5+/-2 days during the intervention period (P=.001). The duration of antibiotic treatment for bacterial meningitis was not significantly different between the 2 periods. All episodes of bacterial and aseptic meningitis were cured, and complications were rare during both periods.
Conclusions: Stopping antibiotic treatment after 3 days is effective and safe for patients with postoperative meningitis whose cerebrospinal fluid culture results are negative.