The impact of patient-reported penicillin or cephalosporin allergy on surgical site infections

Objective: To determine the impact of a documented penicillin or cephalosporin allergy on the development of surgical site infections (SSIs).

Background: Appropriate preoperative antibiotic prophylaxis reduces SSI risk, but documented antibiotic allergies influence the choice of prophylactic agents. Few studies have examined the relationship between a reported antibiotic allergy and risk of SSI and to what extent this relationship is modified by the antibiotic class given for prophylaxis.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of adult patients undergoing coronary artery bypass, craniotomy, spinal fusion, laminectomy, hip arthroplasty and knee arthroplasty at 3 hospitals from July 1, 2013, to December 31, 2017. We built a multivariable logistic regression model to calculate the adjusted odds ratio (aOR) of developing an SSI among patients with and without patient-reported penicillin or cephalosporin allergies. We also examined effect measure modification (EMM) to determine whether surgical prophylaxis affected the association between reported allergy and SSI.

Results: We analyzed 39,972 procedures; 1,689 (4.2%) with a documented patient penicillin or cephalosporin allergy, and 374 (0.9%) resulted in an SSI. Patients with a reported penicillin or cephalosporin allergy were more likely to develop an SSI compared to patients who did not report an allergy to penicillin or cephalosporins (adjusted odds ratio, 3.26; 95% confidence interval, 2.71-3.93). Surgical prophylaxis did not have significant EMM on this association.

Conclusions: Patients who reported a penicillin or cephalosporin allergy had higher odds of developing an SSI than nonallergic patients. However, the increase in odds is not completely mediated by the type of surgical prophylaxis. Instead, a reported allergy may be a surrogate marker for a more complicated patient population.