Postdischarge antibiotics for complicated pneumonia



Clinical question: Are oral antibiotics as effective as intravenous (IV) antibiotics in the treatment of complicated pneumonia after discharge to home?

Background: Pneumonia is the most common illness among hospitalized children and adolescents (excluding neonates). Among children admitted with community acquired pneumonia, 15% may develop a complicated pneumonia (one with a pleural effusion or empyema). Treatment for these complicated pneumonias may include a variety of invasive procedures, such as video-assisted thorascopic surgery or chest tube placement.

Typically, a long course of antibiotics is prescribed on discharge, which may be oral or parenterally administered via a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC). Previous studies have shown that oral antibiotics are equivalent to parenteral antibiotics for outpatient treatment of osteomyelitis. However, little evidence exists comparing the effectiveness of the two routes in treating complicated pneumonia.

Dr. Sam Stubblefield
Dr. Sam Stubblefield

The rate of PICC complications in complicated pneumonia also has not been well studied.

Study design: Retrospective cohort study.

Setting: Thirty-eight children’s hospitals affiliated with the Children’s Hospital Association.

Synopsis: Over 4 years, 7,820 encounters were identified with 2,123 patients ultimately being included in the cohort. Inclusion criteria were age 2 months to 18 years, and discharge diagnoses of pneumonia and pleural effusion. The authors excluded patients with chronic medical conditions, length of stay (LOS) less than 4 and more than 14 days, patients transferred to or from other institutions, and patients receiving no antibiotics on hospital day 1. The final criteria attempted to avoid inclusion of patients with nosocomial pneumonia. After application of these criteria, individual patient records were reviewed.

Patients were categorized as PICC or oral antibiotics based upon antibiotic route at their initial discharge. Treatment failure was defined as an ED revisit or rehospitalization that led to a change in antibiotic, lengthening of antibiotic course, or pleural drainage. Records were searched for evidence of PICC complications, adverse drug reactions, and other illness-related revisits. Patients in the PICC arm and oral arm were matched by age, race, insurance, LOS, positive vs. negative blood culture, ICU admission, and timing and type of pleural drainage.

Fifty-seven patients had treatment failure (2.7%). In matched analysis, there was no difference in treatment failure between PICC and oral routes (PICC treatment failure OR, 1.26 95% CI, 0.54-2.94). PICC complications were found in 7.1% of patients. Patients with PICC had significantly higher rates of adverse drug reactions (OR, 19.1 95% CI, 4.2-87.3) and illness-related revisits (OR 3.27 95% CI, 1.65-6.48), and all revisits (OR, 4.71 95% CI, 2.97-7.46).

PICC use varied markedly across geographic regions and institutions, with rates varying from less than 10% of cases to approximately 70%. Of geographic regions, the Mid-Atlantic used PICCs least often while the East North Central used them the most.

Bottom line: Treatment failure with both oral and PICC treatment of complicated pneumonia occur at the same rate, and are uncommon. Patients with PICCs had an increased rate of complications, including adverse drug reactions and revisits.

Citation: Shah SS, Srivastava R, Wu S, et al. Intravenous versus oral antibiotics for postdischarge treatment of complicated pneumonia. Pediatrics. 2016;138(6):e20161692. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-1692.


Dr. Stubblefield is a pediatric hospitalist at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., and clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.