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Unnecessary antibiotic prescribing in children hospitalised for asthma exacerbation: a retrospective national cohort study


Background Antibiotic resistance represents a worldwide public health threat. Characterising prescribing patterns for conditions for which antibiotics have no role can inform antimicrobial stewardship efforts. Asthma is among the most common non-infectious diseases in children and results in 100 000 hospitalisations annually in the USA. We sought to identify the rate of antibiotic prescribing in children hospitalised for asthma exacerbations, and to characterise patient and hospital factors associated with receipt of antibiotics.

Methods Children and adolescents aged 2–17 years admitted to hospital between 1 October 2015 and 30 June 2018 with an asthma exacerbation were identified from the Premier Alliance Database. After excluding hospitalisations for which antibiotics appeared to have been justified, we assessed receipt and duration of antibiotic treatments during the hospital stay. We developed a hierarchical logistic regression model to identify patient and hospital factors associated with antibiotic treatment. For each hospital with at least 10 asthma cases we computed the percentage of cases receiving antibiotic treatment.

Results 23 129 hospital stays met inclusion criteria; in 3329 (14%) of these, antibiotics were prescribed without clear indication. Hospital prescribing rates varied widely (range 0%–95%), with 25% of hospitals prescribing antibiotics at a rate of 27.5% or more. Patient factors most strongly associated with receipt of antibiotics included the presence of a complex chronic condition (OR: 2.4, 95% CI 2.1 to 2.9; p<0.0001) and admission to the intensive care unit compared with a general medical-surgical bed (OR: 1.6, 95% CI 1.5 to 1.9; p<0.0001). Hospitalisation at general hospitals with minimum paediatric specialty support conferred a nearly threefold higher odds of antibiotic treatment (OR: 2.9, 95% CI 1.5 to 5.6; p<0.0001).

Conclusions These findings illustrate an opportunity to reduce unnecessary exposure to antibiotics in children hospitalised with asthma, particularly in general hospitals where three-quarters of children in the USA receive their hospital-based care.

  • paediatrics
  • antibiotic management
  • hospital medicine

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