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Minerva Anestesiol. 2015 May;81(5):497-506. Epub 2014 Sep 15.

Elevated β-lactam concentrations associated with neurological deterioration in ICU septic patients.

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Department of Intensive Care, Erasme Hospital, Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Brussels, Belgium -



Although β-lactams are considered to have a safe therapeutic profile, neurotoxicity has been reported. The aim of this study was to assess the association between β-lactam concentrations and neurological alterations in septic ICU patients.


Retrospective study on all ICU patients who were treated with meropenem (MEM), piperacillin-tazobactam (TZP) or ceftazidime/cefepime (CEF) and in whom at least one β-lactam trough concentration (C min) was determined. Drug levels were measured using high-performance liquid chromatography; C min was normalized to the clinical breakpoint of Pseudomonas aeruginosa (as determined by EUCAST) for each drug (C min/MIC). Changes in neurological status were evaluated using changes in the neurological sequential organ failure assessment score (ΔnSOFA) using the formula: ΔnSOFA = nSOFA(day of TDM) - nSOFA(ICU admission). Worsening neurological status (NWS) was defined as a ΔnSOFA ≥ 1 for an nSOFA on admission of 0-2.


We collected 262 C min in 199 patients (130 MEM, 85 TZP, 47 CEF). Median APACHE II score and GCS on admission were 17 and 15, respectively. Overall ICU mortality was 27 %. There were no differences in the occurrence of NWS between antibiotics (39% for MEM, 32% for TZP and 35% for CEF). The occurrence of NWS increased with increasing C min/MIC ranges (P = 0.008); this correlation was found for TZP (P = 0.05) and MEM (P = 0.01), but not for CEF. C min/MIC was an independent predictive factor for NWS (OR 1.12 [1.04-1.20]).


We found a correlation between high β-lactam trough concentrations and increased occurrence of neurological deterioration in septic ICU patients. Although our data cannot determine causality, monitoring of β-lactam levels should be considered when deterioration of neurological status occurs during critical illness.

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