Recent literature has demonstrated that emergent administration of antibiotics is perhaps more critical than even emergent debridement. Most recent studies recommend patients receive antibiotics no later than 1 hour after injury to prevent infection. The objective of this study is to evaluate the time to antibiotic administration after patients with open fractures arrive to a trauma center depending on triaging team.

A retrospective study at a level 1 Trauma center from January 2013 to March 2015 where 117 patients with open fractures were evaluated. Patients who presented with open fractures of the extremities or pelvis were considered. Subjects were identified using Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes. Patients aged 18 and older were analyzed for Gustilo type, antibiotics administered in the emergency room (ER), presence of an antibiotic allergy, post-operative antibiotic regimen and number of debridements, among others. Additionally, whether a patient was triaged by ER doctors or trauma surgeons (and made a trauma activation) was evaluated. Outcome measurements included time to intravenous (IV) antibiotic administration and time to surgical debridement.

Patients received IV cefazolin a median of 17 minutes after arrival. Eighty-five patients who were made trauma activations received cefazolin 14 minutes after arrival while 24 non-trauma patients received cefazolin 53 minutes after arrival (p = < 0.0001). The median time to gentamicin administration for all patients was 180 minutes. Patients not upgraded to a trauma received gentamicin 263 minutes after arrival, while patients upgraded received gentamicin 176 minutes after arrival. There was no statistically significant difference between the timing to cefazolin or gentamicin based on Gustilo type.

Overall, patients that arrive at our institution with open fractures receive IV cefazolin significantly faster when trauma surgeons evaluate the patient. Additionally, delays in gentamicin administration are demonstrated in both triaging groups. This is due to the fact that cefazolin is stocked in the hospital ER, while gentamicin is commonly not due to weight-based dosing requirements precluding a standard dose. Improvements can be made to antibiotic administration of non-trauma patients and those requiring gentamicin via improved education and awareness of open fractures.