Antibiotic Prescribing Practices for Prevention of Surgical Site Infections in Australia: Increased Uptake of National Guidelines after Surveillance and Reporting and Impact on Infection Rates

Surg Infect (Larchmt). 2017 Oct;18(7):834-840. doi: 10.1089/sur.2017.119. Epub 2017 Sep 8.


Background: Antimicrobial prophylaxis is the single most effective intervention to reduce risk of surgical site infections (SSIs); however, prescribing practices should be aligned with accepted and recommended surgical antibiotic prophylaxis (SAP) regimens to be effective. As part of a comprehensive surveillance network, SAP data are collated and analyzed for compliance with recommendations. Results are reported to hospitals for quality improvement purposes. In this study, statewide results were analyzed to ascertain changes over time and whether improved compliance was associated with a reduction in risk for SSI.

Methods: A standardized tool for monitoring SAP and SSIs was used in Victorian healthcare facilities. For the current study, data submitted for the period 2003-2015 were analyzed. Compliance with national recommendations (Australian Therapeutic Guidelines-Antibiotic) was used as the reference standard for antibiotic selection, timing, and duration Results: A total of 144,075 surgical procedures were surveyed during the study period. During this period, the proportion of patients receiving antibiotic agents according to national guidelines increased. Across all surgical groups, the odds ratio (OR) for appropriate SAP choice increased by 13%/year. Greatest improvement was seen for colorectal procedures (19%/year), with the smallest change observed for cholecystectomy and cardiac operations (9%/year). The OR for receiving an antibiotic agent at the recommended time increased by 12%/year and the odds of the antibiotic agent being discontinued within 24 hours by 27%/year. Non-compliance with a recommended SAP agent and timing was associated with an increased risk of SSI across all procedure groups (OR 1.33, 95% confidence interval 1.24-1.43).

Conclusion: Sustained improvements in prescribing practices for SAP have been demonstrated through a comprehensive surveillance and reporting system. Non-compliance with SAP guidelines is associated with an increased risk for SSI. Quality improvement programs must focus on uptake and implementation of evidence-based guidelines.

Keywords: antibiotic prophylaxis; surgical site infection; surveillance.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis / statistics & numerical data*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Public Health Surveillance
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgical Wound Infection* / drug therapy
  • Surgical Wound Infection* / epidemiology
  • Surgical Wound Infection* / prevention & control


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents