Suboptimal Beta-Lactam Therapy in Critically Ill Children: Risk Factors and Outcome

Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2022 Jul 1;23(7):e309-e318. doi: 10.1097/PCC.0000000000002951. Epub 2022 Apr 15.


Objectives: In critically ill children, severely altered pharmacokinetics may result in subtherapeutic β-lactam antibiotic concentrations when standard pediatric dosing regimens are applied. However, it remains unclear how to recognize patients most at risk for suboptimal exposure and their outcome. This study aimed to: 1) describe target attainment for β-lactam antibiotics in critically ill children, 2) identify risk factors for suboptimal exposure, and 3) study the association between target nonattainment and clinical outcome.

Design: Post hoc analysis of the "Antibiotic Dosing in Pediatric Intensive Care" study (NCT02456974, 2012-2019). Steady-state trough plasma concentrations were classified as therapeutic if greater than or equal to the minimum inhibitory concentration of the (suspected) pathogen. Factors associated with subtherapeutic concentrations and clinical outcome were identified by logistic regression analysis.

Setting: The pediatric and cardiac surgery ICU of a Belgian tertiary-care hospital.

Patients: One hundred fifty-seven patients (aged 1 mo to 15 yr) treated intravenously with amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, piperacillin-tazobactam, or meropenem.

Interventions: None.

Measurements and main results: Three hundred eighty-two trough concentrations were obtained from 157 patients (median age, 1.25 yr; interquartile range, 0.4-4.2 yr). Subtherapeutic concentrations were measured in 39 of 60 (65%), 43 of 48 (90%), and 35 of 49 (71%) of patients treated with amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, piperacillin-tazobactam, and meropenem, respectively. Estimates of glomerular filtration rate (eGFR; 54% increase in odds for each sd increase in value, 95% CI, 0.287-0.736; p = 0.001) and the absence of vasopressor treatment (2.8-fold greater odds, 95% CI, 1.079-7.253; p = 0.034) were independently associated with target nonattainment. We failed to identify an association between antibiotic concentrations and clinical failure.

Conclusions: Subtherapeutic β-lactam concentrations are common in critically ill children and correlate with renal function. eGFR equations may be helpful in identifying patients who may require higher dosing. Future studies should focus on the impact of subtherapeutic concentrations on clinical outcome.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Amoxicillin-Potassium Clavulanate Combination*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Child
  • Critical Illness / therapy
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Meropenem
  • Piperacillin, Tazobactam Drug Combination
  • Risk Factors
  • beta-Lactams* / pharmacokinetics
  • beta-Lactams* / therapeutic use


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • beta-Lactams
  • Piperacillin, Tazobactam Drug Combination
  • Amoxicillin-Potassium Clavulanate Combination
  • Meropenem

Associated data