Is Penicillin Allergy a Clinical Problem? A Systematic Review of Total Joint Arthroplasty Procedures With Implications for Patient Safety and Antibiotic Stewardship

J Arthroplasty. 2024 Jun;39(6):1616-1623. doi: 10.1016/j.arth.2023.11.034. Epub 2023 Nov 30.

Abstract

Background: Patients undergoing total joint arthroplasty (TJA) who report penicillin allergy (PA) are frequently administered second-line antibiotics, although recent evidence suggests that this may be unnecessary and could increase infection risk. Many institutions have aimed to improve antibiotic deployment via allergy testing and screening; however, there is little standardization to this process. This review aimed to evaluate (1) antibiotic selection in patients who report PA and assess the impact of screening and testing interventions, (2) rates of allergic reactions in patients who report PA, and (3) the association between reported PA and screening or testing programs and odds of surgical site infection or periprosthetic joint infection.

Methods: PubMed, EBSCOhost, and Google Scholar electronic databases were searched on February 4, 2023 to identify all studies published since January 1, 2000 that evaluated the impact of PA on patients undergoing TJA (PROSPERO study protocol registration: CRD42023394031). Articles were included if full-text manuscripts in English were available, and the study analyzed the impact of PA and related interventions on TJA patients. There were 11 studies evaluating 1,276,663 patients included. Interventions were compared via presentation of key findings regarding rates of clinically relevant or high-risk PA reported upon screenings or testings, cephalosporin utilizations, allergic reactions, and postoperative infections (surgical site infection and periprosthetic joint infection).

Results: All 6 studies found that PA screening and testing markedly increase the use of first-line antibiotics. Testing showed low rates of true allergy (0.7 to 3%) and allergic reaction frequency for patients who have reported PA receiving cephalosporins was between 0% and 2%. Although there were mixed findings across studies, there was a trend toward second-line antibiotic prophylaxis being associated with a slightly higher rate of infection in PA patients.

Conclusions: Using PA screening and testing can promote antibiotic stewardship by safely increasing the use of first-line antibiotics in patients who have a reported PA.

Level of evidence: Level III, Therapeutic Study.

Keywords: TJA; allergy; antibiotic; infection; penicillin; prophylaxis.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents* / adverse effects
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis / adverse effects
  • Antimicrobial Stewardship*
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement* / adverse effects
  • Drug Hypersensitivity* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Patient Safety
  • Penicillins* / adverse effects
  • Prosthesis-Related Infections* / prevention & control
  • Surgical Wound Infection* / epidemiology
  • Surgical Wound Infection* / etiology
  • Surgical Wound Infection* / prevention & control

Substances

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Penicillins