How severe is antibiotic pharmacokinetic variability in critically ill patients and what can be done about it?

Diagn Microbiol Infect Dis. 2014 Aug;79(4):441-7. doi: 10.1016/j.diagmicrobio.2014.04.007. Epub 2014 Apr 30.


The pharmacokinetics (PK) of antimicrobial agents administered to critically ill patients exhibit marked variability. This variability results from pathophysiological changes that occur in critically ill patients. Changes in volume of distribution, clearance, and tissue penetration all affect the drug concentrations at the site of infection. PK-pharmacodynamic indices (fCmax:MIC; AUC0-24:MIC; fT>MIC; fCmin:MIC) for both antimicrobial effect and suppression of emergence of resistance are described for many antimicrobial drugs. Changing the regimen by which antimicrobial drugs are delivered can help overcome the PK variability and optimise target attainment. This will deliver optimised antimicrobial chemotherapy to individual critically ill patients. Delivery of β-lactams antimicrobial agents by infusions, rather than bolus dosing, is effective at increasing the duration of the dosing interval that the drug concentration is above the MIC. Therapeutic drug monitoring, utilising population PK mathematical models with Bayesian estimation, can also be used to optimise regimens following measurement of plasma drug concentrations. Clinical trials are required to establish if patient outcomes can be improved by implementing these techniques.

Keywords: Critical care; Pharmacodynamics; Pharmacokinetics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Critical Illness / therapy*
  • Drug Monitoring
  • Humans


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents