A Standardized Regimen of Antibiotics Prevents Infectious Complications in Skull Base Surgery



Objectives/Hypothesis: Craniofacial surgery has been associated with a significant improvement in disease outcome for patients with skull base neoplasms. Despite this improved survival, complications remain considerable. One major source of complications is infectious events. The current study was designed to evaluate a prospectively designed antibiotic regimen and its impact on the incidence and severity of infectious complications. This regimen was compared with a group of historic controls in which antibiotics were administered on an ad hoc basis. The specific objectives/hypothesis were to determine 1) the incidence and severity of infection in a group of patients treated with a nonstandardized antibiotic regimen undergoing craniofacial resection, and 2) whether the use of a prospectively designed, three-drug, broad spectrum antibiotic is associated with a reduced incidence and severity of infections.

Study Design: A single-arm, prospective antibiotic regimen consisting of ceftazidime, flagyl (metronidazole), and vancomycin (CMV) was compared with a historic control of patients treated with nonstandard antibiotic therapy (nonCMV), all of whom underwent craniofacial resection. Outcome measures focused on incidence of infection, severity of infection, and operative mortality.

Methods: In July 1990, a retrospective review (1973-1990) was performed of craniofacial resection. Beginning in July 1990, a prospective database (1990–2003) has been maintained. Demographics, prior therapy, anatomic site of origin and extent of disease, pathology, standard surgical data, and postoperative therapy were detailed. Antibiotic data were collected from chart review. Complications, focusing on infectious complications, were identified and categorized. Culture results and whether the inciting infection was sensitive or resistant to perioperative antibiotics were noted. Length of hospital stay was tabulated. Disease outcome, including incidence of postoperative mortality, was maintained for each patient.

Results: A total of 211 patients underwent craniofacial resection from 1973 to 2003. Major medical comorbidities were present in 53 (25%) patients, and 96 (46%) had prior therapy. The standardized antibiotic therapy (CMV) was used in 90 patients, and the nonstandardized antibiotics (nonCMV) were used in 107 patients. Free flap reconstruction was the sole surgical factor associated with a marked reduction in complications. Infectious wound complications were 11% within the CMV group versus 29% in the nonCMV regimen (P = .002). Moreover, the severity of infections was greatly diminished in the CMV group (P = .0001). With use of a multivariate analysis, the only factor which was predictive of infectious complications was the use of CMV. Patients who received nonCMV antibiotic therapy faced a risk of infection that was 2.5 times higher than those who received CMV. Hospital stay in days and operative mortality were both adversely affected by the use of nonCMV antibiotic therapy.

Conclusions: The data supports the hypothesis that the use of a three-drug, broad spectrum antibiotic regimen in skull base surgery reduces the incidence of infectious complications and appears to reduce operative mortality. Broad spectrum coverage of Gram-positive, Gram-negative, and anaerobic pathogens leads to a marked reduction in infectious complications. Broad spectrum antibiotic coverage avoids many infectious complications and ultimately had a positive impact on patient outcome, quality of life, and, potentially, survival.