BackgroundDiagnosis of internal external ventricular drain (EVD)-related infections (iERI) is an area of diagnostic difficulty. Empiric treatment is often initiated on clinical suspicion. There is limited guidance around antimicrobial management of confirmed versus suspected iERI.MethodsData on patients requiring EVD insertion were collected from 21 neurosurgical units in the United Kingdom from 2014 to 2015. Confirmed iERI was defined as clinical suspicion of infection with positive cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) culture and/or Gram stain. Cerebrospinal fluid, blood, and clinical parameters and antimicrobial management were compared between the 2 groups. Mortality and Modified Rankin Scores were compared at 30 days post-EVD insertion.ResultsInternal EVD-related infection was suspected after 46 of 495 EVD insertions (9.3%), more common after an emergency insertion. Twenty-six of 46 were confirmed iERIs, mostly due to Staphylococci (16 of 26). When confirmed and suspected infections were compared, there were no differences in CSF white cell counts or glucose concentrations, nor peripheral blood white cell counts or C-reactive protein concentrations. The incidence of fever, meningism, and seizures was also similar, although altered consciousness was more common in people with confirmed iERI. Broad-spectrum antimicrobial usage was prevalent in both groups with no difference in median duration of therapy (10 days [interquartile range {IQR}, 7–24.5] for confirmed cases and 9.5 days [IQR, 5.75–14] for suspected, P = 0.3). Despite comparable baseline characteristics, suspected iERI was associated with lower mortality and better neurological outcomes.ConclusionsSuspected iERI could represent sterile inflammation or lower bacterial load leading to false-negative cultures. There is a need for improved microbiology diagnostics and biomarkers of bacterial infection to permit accurate discrimination and improve antimicrobial stewardship.

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