Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Antibiotic prescribing in general medical and surgical specialtie.pdf (692.22 kB)

Antibiotic prescribing in general medical and surgical specialties: a prospective cohort study.

Download (692.22 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 2022-02-14, 13:21 authored by Esmita Charani, Eoghan De BarraEoghan De Barra, Timothy M. Rawson, D Gill, Mark Gilchrist, Nichola R. Naylor, Alison H. Holmes


Qualitative work has described the differences in prescribing practice across medical and surgical specialties. This study aimed to understand if specialty impacts quantitative measures of prescribing practice.


We prospectively analysed the antibiotic prescribing across general medical and surgical teams for acutely admitted patients. Over a 12-month period (June 2016 – May 2017) 659 patients (362 medical, 297 surgical) were followed for the duration of their hospital stay. Antibiotic prescribing across these cohorts was assessed using Chi-squared or Wilcoxon rank-sum, depending on normality of data. The t-test was used to compare age and length of stay. A logistic regression model was used to predict escalation of antibiotic therapy.


Surgical patients were younger (p < 0.001) with lower Charlson Comorbidity Index scores (p < 0.001). Antibiotics were prescribed for 45% (162/362) medical and 55% (164/297) surgical patients. Microbiological results were available for 26% (42/164) medical and 29% (48/162) surgical patients, of which 55% (23/42) and 48% (23/48) were positive respectively. There was no difference in the spectrum of antibiotics prescribed between surgery and medicine (p = 0.507). In surgery antibiotics were 1) prescribed more frequently (p = 0.001); 2) for longer (p = 0.016); 3) more likely to be escalated (p = 0.004); 4) less likely to be compliant with local policy (p < 0.001) than medicine.


Across both specialties, microbiology investigation results are not adequately used to diagnose infections and optimise their management. There is significant variation in antibiotic decision-making (including escalation patterns) between general surgical and medical teams. Antibiotic stewardship interventions targeting surgical specialties need to go beyond surgical prophylaxis. It is critical to focus on of review the patients initiated on therapeutic antibiotics in surgical specialties to ensure that escalation and continuation of therapy is justified.


Economic and Social Science Research Council (ESRC) as part of the Antimicrobial Cross Council initiative [ES/P008313/1] supported by the seven UK research councils, and the Global Challenges Research Fund and the National Institute for Health Research. National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Healthcare Associated Infections and Antimicrobial Resistance at Imperial College London in partnership with Public Health England (PHE) in collaboration with The Sanger Institute, the University of Cambridge Veterinary School and Imperial College Health Partners. Wellcome Trust Clinical PhD award.



The original article is available at

Published Citation

Charani E, de Barra E, Rawson TM, Gill D, Gilchrist M, Naylor NR, Holmes AH. Antibiotic prescribing in general medical and surgical specialties: a prospective cohort study. Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control. 2019;8:151

Publication Date


PubMed ID



  • Beaumont Hospital
  • International Health and Tropical Medicine

Usage metrics

    Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland


    No categories selected