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March 1977

Use of Systemic Antibiotics for Prophylaxis in Surgery: A Critical Review

Author Affiliations

From the Infectious Disease Service, Buffalo General Hospital, and the Departments of Surgery and Medicine, State University of New York at Buffalo.

Arch Surg. 1977;112(3):326-334. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1977.01370030098018

• We reviewed the English-language literature over a 16-year period (1960 through 1976) on the subject of prophylaxis with systemic antibiotics in surgery. Trials in genitourinary and cardiovascular surgery were not reviewed. Our definition of prophylaxis is antibiotic administration in the absence of infection or contamination. Of 131 articles reporting clinical trials using systemic antibiotics for prophylaxis, only 24 met the criterion of an appropriately designed study that generated evaluable data. In these, systemic antibiotics were shown to be of value in reducing wound infections after abdominal and vaginal hysterectomy, cesarean section, biliary surgery, total hip replacement, and microneurosurgical craniotomy. Antibiotic prophylaxis was of no value in laparotomy and groin hernia repair. Patients undergoing any of 21 different operations did not benefit from prophylactic antibiotic administration, though study groups were too small or infection rates too low to allow for firm conclusions. In certain patients at high risk of infection, systemic prophylaxis is warranted. Future clinical studies must be designed as randomized, blinded, prospective trials, with antibiotics administered by a parenteral route beginning preoperatively.

(Arch Surg 112: 326-334, 1977)

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