Cost and Utility of Microbiological Cultures Early After Intensive Care Unit Admission for Intracerebral Hemorrhage

Neurocrit Care. 2017 Feb;26(1):58-63. doi: 10.1007/s12028-016-0285-3.


Background: Fever is common among intensive care unit (ICU) patients. Clinicians may use microbiological cultures to differentiate infectious and aseptic fever. However, their utility depends on the prevalence of infection; and false-positive results might adversely affect patient care. We sought to quantify the cost and utility of microbiological cultures in a cohort of ICU patients with spontaneous intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH).

Methods: We performed a secondary analysis of a cohort with spontaneous ICH requiring mechanical ventilation. We collected baseline data, measures of systemic inflammation, microbiological culture results for the first 48 h, and daily antibiotic usage. Two physicians adjudicated true-positive and false-positive culture results using standard criteria. We calculated the cost per true-positive result and used logistic regression to test the association between false-positive results with subsequent antibiotic exposure.

Results: Overall, 697 subjects were included. A total of 233 subjects had 432 blood cultures obtained, with one true-positive (diagnostic yield 0.1 %, $22,200 per true-positive) and 11 false-positives. True-positive urine cultures (5 %) and sputum cultures (13 %) were more common but so were false-positives (6 and 17 %, respectively). In adjusted analysis, false-positive blood and sputum results were associated with increased antibiotic exposure.

Conclusions: The yield of blood cultures early after spontaneous ICH was very low. False-positive results significantly increased the odds of antibiotic exposure. Our results support limiting the use of blood cultures in the first two days after ICU admission for spontaneous ICH.

Keywords: Antimicrobial; Critical illness; Culture; Intracerebral hemorrhage; Microbiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blood / microbiology*
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / blood
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / diagnosis*
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / economics
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / microbiology
  • Critical Care / economics
  • Critical Care / standards*
  • Critical Illness* / economics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / diagnosis*
  • Inflammation / economics
  • Inflammation / microbiology
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Admission
  • Sputum / microbiology*
  • Unnecessary Procedures / economics
  • Unnecessary Procedures / standards*
  • Urine / microbiology*