Continuous infusion of beta-lactam antibiotics

Clin Pharmacokinet. 1998 Nov;35(5):391-402. doi: 10.2165/00003088-199835050-00004.


There are considerable laboratory data and information from animal and continuous culture in vitro models to support continuous infusion therapy for penicillins and cephalosporins, but, as yet, the only existing clinical data relate to cephalosporins. Penicillins do not exert concentration-dependent killing in the therapeutic range but have a post-antibiotic effect (PAE) against Gram-positive cocci but not Gram-negative rods. Animal models indicate the time (T) during which the serum concentrations exceed the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of the pathogen [T > MIC] determines outcomes. Pharmacokinetic studies in humans indicate that continuous infusion with penicillins is possible but there are no clinical data on efficacy. Cephalosporins have similar pharmacodynamic properties to penicillins; T > MIC determines outcome. Data related to ceftazidime indicate that the drug concentration at steady-state (Css) should exceed the pathogen MIC by > 1-fold and perhaps by 4- to 5-fold or more. Human pharmacokinetics of ceftazidime administered by continuous infusion to a wide variety of patient groups indicates that Css of > 20 mg/L can easily be achieved using conventional daily doses. Clinical data indicate increased effectiveness of a continuous regimen in neutropenic patients with Gram-negative infection. Furthermore cefuroxime administration by continuous infusion has resulted in lower doses and shorter course durations. Little is known of the pharmacodynamics of monobactams and there are few clinical data on continuous infusion therapy. Carbapenems have different pharmacodynamics to other beta-lactams as they have concentration-dependent killing and a PAE with both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. While T > MIC has a role in determining outcomes, the proportion of the dosing interval for which serum drug concentrations should exceed the pathogen MIC is less than for other beta-lactams. In vitro models have shown that continuous infusion is effective, as is less frequent dosing. There are few data on continuous infusion of carbapenems but some patients have been treated with once-daily dosing. Clinically, continuous infusion therapy with penicillins and cephalosporins should be considered in patients infected with susceptible Gram-negative rods not responding to conventional therapy. As an approximation, the same total daily dose should be given but a bolus intravenous injection should be give at the start of continuous infusion to ensure Css is reached rapidly. The Css may be difficult to predict and determination of serum drug concentrations may be indicated. Ideally, the Css should be calculated based on the MIC of the potential pathogen and may be higher or lower than the Css achieved by a conventional daily dose.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Carbapenems / administration & dosage
  • Carbapenems / pharmacology
  • Cephalosporins / administration & dosage
  • Cephalosporins / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Monobactams / administration & dosage
  • Monobactams / pharmacology
  • Penicillins / administration & dosage
  • Penicillins / pharmacology
  • Time Factors


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Carbapenems
  • Cephalosporins
  • Monobactams
  • Penicillins