SAN DIEGO (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS)Narrow-spectrum antibiotics yield outcomes that are at least comparable, if not better, than broad-spectrum antibiotics when prescribed to children with appendicitis, according to a retrospective cohort study presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies.

The study found that in cases of both complicated and uncomplicated appendicitis, rates of hospital readmission were consistently lower for children prescribed narrow-spectrum antibiotics versus broad-spectrum ones.

“Current guidelines recommend what we ended up defining as narrow-spectrum antibiotics, such as cefoxitin, for uncomplicated cases of appendicitis,” said Dr. Matthew P. Kronman of Seattle Children’s Hospital and the study’s lead author. “For the complicated appendicitis cases, the guidelines state that you can either use one of the narrow-spectrum antibiotics, or you can use other agents – such as piperacillin, ticarcillin, ceftazidime, cefepime, or a carbapenem, for example – that we defined as “broad spectrum” because they provide a wider range of protection and have so much activity that patients often don’t need.”

Dr. Kronman and his coinvestigators analyzed the records of 27,306 children aged 3-18 years, admitted to 1 of 23 hospitals for at least 1 day between 2011 and 2013 with appendicitis. The primary outcome was readmission within 30 days for any subsequent abdominal infection or procedure.

Uncomplicated cases accounted for 18.939 of subjects (69.9%), and complicated appendicitis was recorded in the remaining 8.367 (30.1%) of children. Subjects were given broad-spectrum antibiotics in 28.1% of uncomplicated cases and 64.7% of complicated cases.

Overall, 1.0% of patients with uncomplicated appendicitis (189) and 6.0% (498) of complicated cases were readmitted within 30 days. Of the uncomplicated cases, the readmission rate for patients who got broad-spectrum antibiotics was 1.4%, compared with 0.9% for patients who received narrow-spectrum ones; in cases of complicated appendicitis, 6.8% of subjects given broad-spectrum antibiotics were readmitted within 30 days, compared with 4.4% for patients on narrow-spectrum antibiotics.

Multivariate logistic regression was performed on the study population, with adjustments for demographic factors, as well as illness severity and length of stay. Investigators found that age, sex, and insurance type were not factors in the association between broad-spectrum antibiotic intake and readmission within 30 days. However, increased length of stay, illness severity, and placement of a peripherally inserted central catheter line, which was used exclusively for patients with complicated appendicitis, were associated with the primary outcome.

The association between broad-spectrum agents and higher readmission rates could be a result of confounding by indication, wherein patients are given broad-spectrum drugs by physicians because the patients present as very sick, Dr. Kronman said. However, that alone means that they’re at a higher risk for developing complications and being readmitted shortly after receiving treatment, he added.

“But I think it’s reasonable to conclude that those treated with narrow-spectrum antibiotics didn’t do worse, and if they didn’t do worse, there’s no reason that every kid with appendicitis shouldn’t be treated with narrow-spectrum antibiotics because we know that those treated with broader-spectrum antibiotics are more likely to develop colonization with resistant organisms, and can have other complications due to the spectrum of activity brought on by the antibiotics they were given,” Dr. Kronman said. “So if narrow-spectrum antibiotics are just as good, we should try to get every hospital to use them.”

Dr. Kronman did not report any financial disclosures. The study was supported by the Clinical Research Scholars Program at Seattle Children’s Hospital and by the National Center of Advancing Translational Sciences at the National Institutes of Health.