Understanding surgical antimicrobial prescribing behaviour in the hospital setting: a systematic review and meta-ethnography protocol

Syst Rev. 2020 Oct 10;9(1):236. doi: 10.1186/s13643-020-01477-5.


Background: Surgical specialities use extensive amounts of antimicrobials, and misuse has been widely reported, making them a key target for antimicrobial stewardship initiatives. Interventions informed by, and tailored to, a clear understanding of the contextual barriers to appropriate antimicrobial use are more likely to successfully improve practice. However, this approach has been under utilised. Our aim is to synthesise qualitative studies on surgical antimicrobial prescribing behaviour (APB) in hospital settings to explain how and why contextual factors act and interact to influence APB amongst surgical teams. We will develop new theory to advance understanding and identify knowledge gaps to inform further research.

Methods: The meta-ethnography will follow the seven-phase method described by Noblit and Hare. We will conduct a comprehensive search using eight databases (AMED, CINAHL, EMBASE, MEDLINE, MEDLINE-in-process, Web of Science, Cochrane Library and PsycINFO) with no date restrictions; forwards and backwards citation searches; and contacting first authors of relevant papers. Studies will be dual screened and included if they use recognised qualitative methods and analysis; focus on contextual factors associated with surgical APB within hospital settings; are available in full in English; and are relevant to the research question. Any disagreements between reviewers will be resolved through discussion to reach consensus. Included studies will be read repeatedly to illuminate key concepts and the relationship between key concepts across studies. Then, key concepts will be sorted into conceptual categories or 'piles' which will be further abstracted to form a conceptual framework explaining surgical APB. During the synthesis, emerging interpretations will be discussed with stakeholders (including authors of included studies where possible; surgical and stewardship practitioners; and patient representatives) to ensure new knowledge is meaningful.

Discussion: This research has several strengths: (1) the protocol has been written with reference to established guidance maximising rigour and transparency; (2) the multi-disciplinary research team bring varied interpretative repertoires and relevant methodological skills; and (3) stakeholders will be involved to ensure that findings are relevant, and disseminated via suitable channels, to support improved patient care.

Systematic review registration: PROSPERO CRD42020184343.

Keywords: Antimicrobial decision-making; Antimicrobial prescribing behaviour; Meta-ethnography; Qualitative; Surgery; Synthesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anthropology, Cultural*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans
  • Qualitative Research
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents