Patient Care

Uncomplicated Skin Infections in Ambulatory Setting Commonly Involve Avoidable Antibiotic Exposure


Clinical question: What are the current prescribing practices for antibiotics used to treat skin and soft tissue infections in the outpatient setting?

Background: Uncomplicated skin and soft tissue infections are among the most frequent indications for outpatient antibiotic use. Because antibiotic use is associated with bacterial resistance and adverse events, understanding antibiotic prescribing practices is necessary to minimize these types of complications.

Study design: Retrospective cohort.

Setting: Ambulatory care setting in the Denver Health System.

Synopsis: Data from 364 adults and children who presented to an ambulatory setting with a primary diagnosis of skin and soft tissue infection were analyzed using a stepwise multivariate logistic regression in order to determine factors associated with avoidable antibiotic exposure. Among cellulitis cases, 61% of patients were prescribed antibiotics to treat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Avoidable antibiotic exposure occurred in 46% of cases, including use of antibiotics with broad Gram-negative activity (4%), combination therapy (12%), and treatment for ≥10 days (42%). Use of short-course, single-antibiotic treatment approaches consistent with national guidelines would have reduced prescribed antibiotic days by 19%, to 55%.

Bottom line: Avoidable antibiotic exposure frequently occurs in the treatment of uncomplicated skin infections; using short-course, single-antibiotic treatment strategies could significantly reduce total antibiotic use.

Citation: Hurley HJ, Knepper BC, Price CS, Mehler PS, Burman WJ, Jenkins TC. Avoidable antibiotic exposure for uncomplicated skin and soft tissue infections in the ambulatory care setting. Am J Med. 2013;126(12):1099-1106.

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