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J Hosp Infect. 2000 Jul;45(3):185-90.

Selective decontamination of the digestive tract: a life saver.

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  • 1Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care, Presidio Ospedaliero, Gorizia, Italia.


Selective decontamination of the digestive tract (SDD), a strategy designed to prevent or minimize the impact of infection by potentially pathogenic micro-organisms in critically ill patients requiring long-term mechanical ventilation, comprises four component protocols, aiming to control the three types of infection occurring in such cases: (i) a parenteral antibiotic, cefotaxime, administered for a few days to prevent primary endogenous infections typically occurring 'early'; (ii) the topical antimicrobials polymyxin E, tobramycin and amphotericin B employed throughout the stay in the intensive care unit to prevent secondary endogenous infections tending to develop 'late'; (iii) a high standard of hygiene to prevent exogenous infections that may occur throughout the stay in the intensive care unit; (iv) surveillance samples of throat and rectum to distinguish between these three types of infection, to monitor the compliance and the efficacy of the treatment, and to detect the emergence of resistance at an early stage. A recent, rigorous, meta-analysis examining 33 randomized SDD trials involving 5727 patients demonstrated a significant reduction in overall mortality (20%) and in the incidence of respiratory tract infections (65%); conclusive evidence that SDD saves the lives of critically ill patients and confirmation that SDD is now an evidence based medicine manoeuvre. This same meta-analysis found no instance of the emergence of resistance or of associated superinfections and/or outbreaks in any of the 33 studies during a period extending upwards of 10 years. By the criterion of cost-per-survivor, four recent randomized trials showed that patient survival is improved more cheaply by employing SDD than by the traditional approaches.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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