Antimicrobial Therapy… December 30, 2011

Posted by Andy Jagoda, MD in: Drugs & Emergency Procedures, Infectious Disease , 25 comments

At 7:00 on a Monday morning, the day begins with a full line-up of “to be seen.” A 35-year-old female with no past medical history presents to the ED complaining of cough and shortness of breath for 2 days that is progressively worsening. On physical examination, she is febrile with an oxygen saturation of 94% on room air and decreased breath sounds at the right base. You order a chest x-ray that shows right lower lobe consolidation.

The second patient on your tracking board is a 70-year-old female with fever, nausea, and back pain for 3 days. She is accompanied by her daughter, who states her mother hasn’t been herself today and that she had a similar presentation when she had a UTI 2 years ago. She is febrile to 38.3°C (101°F), oriented x2, with left costovertebral angle tenderness. Her urine dipstick is positive for leukocyte esterase and nitrites.

In the next bed, you are evaluating a 23-year-old male who has had a painful, swollen right forearm for 2 days. He reports a subjective fever earlier in the evening, but no other systemic symptoms. He denies any past medical history and has no IV drug abuse and no history of diabetes. He is afebrile with normal vital signs. A 6-cm area of erythema, induration, and tenderness is noted on his proximal forearm with a 2-cm central fluctuant, raised area. He has full range of motion at the elbow.

Just as you sit down for a cup of coffee, the triage nurse notifies you that she just received an 85-year-old male from a nursing home that was sent in for evaluation for fever. He has a history of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and dementia. On physical examination, he is febrile, with otherwise normal vital signs. His abdomen is slightly distended, soft, but diffusely tender to palpation.

Four infectious disease cases in a row — it feels like an epidemic. In the age of emerging pathogens — and when the right antibiotic choice may be the difference between a good or bad outcome — which antibiotic(s) do you use?

(Enter to win the latest issue of Emergency Medicine Practice, including CME, by submitting your answer to the question above. To do so, simply enter your response in the comments box. The deadline to enter is January 6th.)