Continuing Medical Education

Optimising the administration of antibiotics in critically ill patients

G A Richards, I A Joubert, A J Brink


Optimal outcome and a reduction in the potential for resistance require that appropriate pharmacokinetic (PK) targets are achieved.
Consequently, we need to target drug concentrations that are significantly higher than those conventionally presumed to be adequate.
Drug exposure varies according to the molecular weight, degree of ionisation, protein binding and lipid solubility of each agent. In
critically ill patients, hypoalbuminaemia increases the free fraction of hydrophilic drugs, which in turn increases the volume of distribution
and clearance (CL), both of which result in reduced drug levels. Similarly, augmented renal clearance (ARC), defined as a creatinine
clearance (CLcr) of >130 mL/min/1.73 m2, which occurs frequently in critically ill patients, particularly younger patients with normal
or near-normal creatinine levels, may also significantly reduce drug exposure. Studies have demonstrated a greater mortality and lower
cure with ARC, particularly with the additive effects of obesity, hypoalbuminaemia and increasing resistance, if conventional dosages are
used. These concepts apply to antibiotics targeting Gram-negative and -positive organisms. Knowledge of PK and the resistance profiles of
organisms in each environment is necessary to prescribe appropriately. This article discusses these issues and the doses that should be used.

Authors' affiliations

G A Richards, Division of Critical Care, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa

I A Joubert, Division of Critical Care, Department of Anaesthesia, Faculty of Health Sciences, Groote Schuur Hospital and University of Cape Town, South Africa

A J Brink, Department of Clinical Microbiology, Ampath National Laboratory Services, Milpark Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2015;105(5):419. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.9649

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-09-17
Date published: 2015-09-17

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