Impact of antimicrobial stewardship in critical care: a systematic review

J Antimicrob Chemother. 2011 Jun;66(6):1223-30. doi: 10.1093/jac/dkr137. Epub 2011 Apr 2.


Objectives: To evaluate the current state of evidence for antimicrobial stewardship interventions in the critical care unit.

Methods: We performed a systematic search of OVID MEDLINE, Embase and Cochrane electronic databases from 1996-2010. Studies were included if they involved any experimental intervention to improve antimicrobial utilization in the critical care setting.

Results: Thirty-eight studies met the inclusion criteria, of which 24 met our quality inclusion criteria. The quality of research was poor, with only 3 randomized controlled trials, 3 interrupted time series and 18 (75%) uncontrolled before-and-after studies. We identified six intervention types: studies of antibiotic restriction or pre-approval (six studies); formal infectious diseases physician consultation (five); implementation of guidelines or protocols for de-escalation (two); guidelines for antibiotic prophylaxis or treatment in intensive care (two); formal reassessment of antibiotics on a pre-specified day of therapy (three); and implementation of computer-assisted decision support (six). Stewardship interventions were associated with reductions in antimicrobial utilization (11%-38% defined daily doses/1000 patient-days), lower total antimicrobial costs (US$ 5-10/patient-day), shorter average duration of antibiotic therapy, less inappropriate use and fewer antibiotic adverse events. Stewardship interventions beyond 6 months were associated with reductions in antimicrobial resistance rates, although this differed by drug-pathogen combination. Antibiotic stewardship was not associated with increases in nosocomial infection rates, length of stay or mortality.

Conclusions: More rigorous research is needed, but available evidence suggests that antimicrobial stewardship is associated with improved antimicrobial utilization in the intensive care unit, with corresponding improvements in antimicrobial resistance and adverse events, and without compromise of short-term clinical outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Critical Illness
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Drug Utilization / standards*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents