Antibiotics for chest tubes

Things to keep in mind:

Prophylactic antibiotics for surgical patients in tube thoracostomy is usually limited to 24hrs duration and is 1st generation cephalosporin. It is meant to cover s. aureus the most common organism found in post traumatic empyema

increasing antibiotic use is leading to increase incidence of drug resistance

Potential infectious complications of penetrating or blunt chest trauma:

  • Post Traumatic Empyema
  • Pneumonia

Literature is mixed on whether antibiotics should be given for chest tubes placed for trauma.

In 1998 EAST guidelines gave a level 3* recommendation to give antibiotics prophylacticly to reduce incidence of pneumonia based off of Class I and Class II** data. AND there was insufficient data to give prophylactic antibiotics for post traumatic empyema

This recommendation remains controversial because 

  •    In order for antibiotics to be prophylactic they have to be given prior to a procedure and must reach a steady state concentration in the tissue before an incision is made.
  •    In the case of antibiotics given after a trauma has already occurred, the pleura has already been violated regardless of whether it is penetrating or blunt trauma. Therefore antibiotics do not reach needed concentration before contamination has concerned so these antibiotics are considered presumptive antibiotics.
  •    Non standard definitions of pneumonia and empyema were used, as well as various antibiotics were used in the different studies

In 2012 EAST guidelines reviewed the use of presumptive antibiotics for chest tubes (Tube thoracostomy):

They decided that they cannot make a recommendation for or against the routine use of presumptive antibiotics for chest tubes placed for traumatic hemopneumothorax.

Nor are they able to recommend an optimal duration of antibiotic prophylaxis when antibiotics are administered for traumatic hemopneumothorax because there are insufficient published data to support the routine use of antibiotics.

They concluded:

No single published study has been powered to adequately address the practice of administering presumptive antibiotics in TT for traumatic hemopneumothorax to decrease the incidence of empyema or pneumonia. Until a large and likely multicenter, randomized, controlled trial can be performed, the routine practice of presumptive antibiotics in TT for chest trauma will remain controversial.

If you want to read the article it isn’t a long read:
Post by: Dr. Ashley Guthrie, DO

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