Penetrating and open wounds expose an otherwise sealed and protected body to foreign bodies, leaving the patient vulnerable to potentially fatal infection. The objective of this study was to determine if the administration of systemic prophylactic antibiotics by paramedics for penetrating and/or open wounds leads to decreased infection rates and improved patient outcomes.
A literature search of the electronic medical databases CINAHL, Cochrane, EMBASE and MEDLINE was conducted. The databases were reviewed from January 2000 to March 2013. A pre-hospital search filter was applied to each database with additional search terms of ‘open wound’, ‘penetrating wound’, ‘prophylactic antibiotic’. References of retrieved articles were also reviewed. Articles were included if they reported on the administration of prophylactic antibiotics by paramedics for penetrating or significant open wounds.
A total of 1280 articles were identified in the search with four articles meeting the inclusion criteria. All four articles focused on the combat setting and management of soldiers with combat-related open or penetrating wounds. Two studies supported the use of prophylactic antibiotics whereas the third did not, stating that the evidence was low level and the practice of antibiotic administration was more opinion based.
This study identified that there is scant evidence to support the use of systematic antibiotic prophylaxis in the civilian pre-hospital setting for open wounds. There is a need for further research to identify if this view may change in the future.
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