Adherence and outcomes of a surgical prophylaxis guideline promoting cephalosporin use among patients with penicillin allergy

Published:February 16, 2022DOI:



      The study purpose was to assess adherence to a local surgical prophylaxis guideline in patients with reported penicillin allergies, which recommends cephalosporins as first-line prophylaxis.


      Adult patients with penicillin allergies admitted for a surgical procedure from July 2020 to June 2021 were retrospectively screened, and the first surgery per admission was included. The primary outcome was the proportion of surgeries using β-lactam prophylaxis. Additional outcomes included prophylaxis timing, hypersensitivity reactions, acute kidney injury, infectious complications, duration of stay, and 30-day mortality or readmission.


      Among 597 procedures, 504 patients (84.4%) received a β-lactam for surgical prophylaxis, including 494 (82.3%) who received a cephalosporin. Patients in the non–β-lactam group were more likely to have a type I IgE–mediated penicillin allergy (48.4% vs 31.7%, P = .002); however, the majority with type I reactions still received β-lactams (78.0%), including in the setting of anaphylaxis or angioedema to penicillin (67.7%). Zero allergic reactions to prophylaxis antibiotics were reported in either group, and there were no significant differences in the proportion of patients receiving drugs associated with the management of allergic reactions. Receipt of non–β-lactams was associated with inappropriate prophylaxis timing (9.7% vs 3.2%, P = .005) and postprocedural acute kidney injury (7.5% vs 0.6%, P < .001). All other outcomes were nonsignificant between the groups.


      Among surgical patients with a documented penicillin allergy, most received cephalosporin prophylaxis as recommended by institutional guidelines, with zero allergic reactions. Receipt of non–β-lactam prophylaxis was associated with worsened outcomes. Cephalosporin prophylaxis should be preferred for surgical patients, including in the setting of true penicillin allergy.

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