Perioperative Antibiotics in Clean-Contaminated Head and Neck Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Adv Ther. 2020 Apr;37(4):1360-1380. doi: 10.1007/s12325-020-01269-2. Epub 2020 Mar 5.


Background: The optimal evidence-based prophylactic antibiotic regimen for surgical site infections following major head and neck surgery remains a matter of debate.

Methods: Medline, Cochrane, and Embase were searched for the current best evidence. Retrieved manuscripts were screened according to the PRISMA guidelines. Included studies dealt with patients over 18 years of age that underwent clean-contaminated head and neck surgery (P) and compared the effect of an intervention, perioperative administration of different antibiotic regimens for a variable duration (I), with control groups receiving placebo, another antibiotic regimen, or the same antibiotic for a different postoperative duration (C), on surgical site infection rate as primary outcome (O) (PICO model). A systematic review was performed, and a selected group of trials investigating a similar research question was subjected to a random-effects model meta-analysis.

Results: Thirty-nine studies were included in the systematic review. Compared with placebo, cefazolin, ampicillin-sulbactam, and amoxicillin-clavulanate were the most efficient agents. Benzylpenicillin and clindamycin were clearly less effective. Fifteen studies compared short- to long-term prophylaxis; treatment for more than 48 h did not further reduce wound infections. Meta-analysis of five clinical trials including 4336 patients, where clindamycin was compared with ampicillin-sulbactam, implied an increased infection rate for clindamycin-treated patients (OR = 2.73, 95% CI 1.50-4.97, p = 0.001).

Conclusion: In clean-contaminated head and neck surgery, cefazolin, amoxicillin-clavulanate, and ampicillin-sulbactam for 24-48 h after surgery were associated with the highest prevention rate of surgical site infection.

Keywords: Evidence based; Guidelines; Head and neck oncology; Head and neck surgery; Meta-analysis; Perioperative antibiotics; Prophylaxis; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Ampicillin
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis / methods*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Sulbactam
  • Surgical Wound Infection / prevention & control*
  • Time Factors


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • sultamicillin
  • Ampicillin
  • Sulbactam