Revisiting perioperative penicillin allergy to optimize cefazolin use
Published online: December 28, 2019
Surgical patients with a penicillin allergy are more likely to receive second-line antibiotics as opposed to first-line cephalosporins (cefazolin/cefuroxime), and have increased risk for surgical site infections and side effects. Provider misconceptions about cross-reactivity risk likely drive this prescribing behavior. However, only 1-10% of penicillin allergy labels are real. Further, the rate of clinically significant cross-reactivity between penicillins and cephalosporins is now recognized to be as low as 2-5% and this risk is even lower for cefazolin and cefuroxime.
In a study recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, Kuruvilla et al describe outcomes of a multi-disciplinary practice improvement effort with the goal of increasing the use of first-line prophylactic antibiotics in surgical patients. They present a streamlined approach for evaluation of penicillin allergy in preoperative patients, to allow for safe administration of prophylactic cephalosporins without additional testing.
The percentage of patients receiving a first-line cephalosporin increased from 22% at baseline to >80% following algorithm implementation. Among 551 patients with penicillin allergy label who received a cephalosporin, there were no immediate or delayed hypersensitivity reactions attributable to cefazolin or cefuroxime use. These initial results suggest that the use of a streamlined algorithm without antecedent penicillin allergy testing can increase perioperative cephalosporin utilization without a significant risk of adverse reactions.
The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice is an official journal of the AAAAI, focusing on practical information for the practicing clinician.