BACKGROUND: Antibiotics are prescribed to most pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) patients, but data describing indications and appropriateness of antibiotic orders in this population are lacking.
METHODS: We performed a multicenter point prevalence study that included children admitted to 10 geographically diverse PICUs over 4 study days in 2019. Antibiotic orders were reviewed for indication, and appropriateness was assessed using a standardized rubric.
RESULTS: Of 1462 patients admitted to participating PICUs, 843 (58%) had at least 1 antibiotic order. A total of 1277 antibiotic orders were reviewed. Common indications were empiric therapy for suspected bacterial infections without sepsis or septic shock (260 orders, 21%), nonoperative prophylaxis (164 orders, 13%), empiric therapy for sepsis or septic shock (155 orders, 12%), community-acquired pneumonia (CAP; 118 orders, 9%), and post-operative prophylaxis (94 orders, 8%). Appropriateness was assessed for 985 orders for which an evidence-based rubric for appropriateness could be created. Of these, 331 (34%) were classified as inappropriate. Indications with the most orders classified as inappropriate were empiric therapy for suspected bacterial infection without sepsis or septic shock (78 orders, 24%), sepsis or septic shock (55 orders, 17%), CAP (51 orders, 15%), ventilator-associated infections (47 orders, 14%), and post-operative prophylaxis (44 orders, 14%). The proportion of antibiotics classified as inappropriate varied across institutions (range, 19%-43%).
CONCLUSIONS: Most PICU patients receive antibiotics. Based on our study, we estimate that one-third of antibiotic orders are inappropriate. Improved antibiotic stewardship and research focused on strategies to optimize antibiotic use in critically ill children are needed.