South African Medical Journal

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Optimising the administration of antibiotics in critically ill patients

GA Richards, IA Joubert, AJ 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.
AJOL African Journals Online