Clinical question: Have healthcare-associated pneumonia (HCAP) guidelines improved treatment accuracy?
Background: Guidelines released in 2005 call for the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics for patients presenting with pneumonia who have had recent healthcare exposure. However, there is scant evidence to support the risk factors they identify, and the guidelines are likely to increase use of broad-spectrum antibiotics.
Study design: Observational, retrospective.
Setting: VA medical centers, 2006–2010.
Synopsis: In this study, VA medical center physicians evaluated 95,511 hospitalizations for pneumonia at 128 hospitals between 2006 and 2010, the years following the 2005 guidelines. Annual analyses were performed to assess antibiotics selection as well as evidence of resistant bacteria from blood and respiratory cultures. Researchers found that while the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics increased drastically during the study period (vancomycin from 16% to 31% and piperacillin-tazobactam from 16% to 27%, P<0.001 for both), the incidence of resistant organisms either decreased or remained stable.
Additionally, physicians were no better at matching broad-spectrum antibiotics to patients infected with resistant organisms at the end of the study period than they were at the start. They conclude that more research is urgently needed to identify patients at risk for resistant organisms in order to more appropriately prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics.
This study did not evaluate patients’ clinical outcomes, so it is unclear whether they may have benefitted clinically from the implementation of the guidelines. For now, the optimal approach to empiric therapy for HCAP remains undefined.
Bottom line: Despite a marked increase in the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics for HCAP in the years following a change in treatment guidelines, doctors showed no improvement at matching these antibiotics to patients infected with resistant organisms.
Citation: Jones BE, Jones MM, Huttner B, et al. Trends in antibiotic use and nosocomial pathogens in hospitalized veterans with pneumonia at 128 medical centers, 2006-2010. Clin Infect Dis. 2015;61(9):1403-1410.