University of Washington

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

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Antibiotic prescribing for acute respiratory infection and subsequent outpatient hospital utilization in veterans with spinal cord injury and disorder


Evans, C.T., Li, K., Burns, S.P., Smith, B., Lee, T.A., & Weaver, F.M



Publication Info:

PM&R, 2(2):101-109


OBJECTIVE: To assess the association between antibiotic prescribing for acute respiratory infection (ARI) and subsequent health-care utilization in veterans with spinal cord injury and disorder (SCI/D).
DESIGN: Retrospective cohort of veterans with SCI/D.
SETTING: Veterans Affairs medical facilities that provide outpatient care.
PATIENTS: Veterans with SCI/D with a diagnosis of acute bronchitis or upper respiratory infection during an outpatient visit between fiscal year 2006 and 2007 that did not result in same-day hospitalization.
INDEPENDENT VARIABLE: Receipt of a new antibiotic prescription occurring within 3 days before or after an ARI visit.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Subsequent outpatient visit or hospitalization within 30 days of the index ARI visit.
RESULTS: A total of 1277 patients were identified with ARI; 53.2% were prescribed an antibiotic. An outpatient clinic visit within 30 days of the index ARI visit occurred in 47.0% of patients. Receipt of an antibiotic prescription was not associated with a subsequent outpatient visit. However, in those with certain chronic respiratory conditions (cough, shortness of breath, bronchitis not specified as acute or chronic, and allergic rhinitis), those prescribed antibiotics were less likely to return for an outpatient visit than those not prescribed antibiotics (adjusted relative risk =0.77, 95% confidence interval = 0.61-0.97); no association was observed in those patients without these conditions. A total of 7.9% of patients were hospitalized within 30 days and did not differ by prescribing group. The 30-day mortality rate was 0.6%.
CONCLUSIONS: Certain chronic respiratory conditions in veterans with SCI/D may be risk factors for increased health-care utilization and potentially poor outcomes if a patient is not treated with antibiotics for ARI. However, in those without these conditions, those with ARI who were prescribed antibiotics have similar utilization to those not prescribed antibiotics. These data suggest that in the absence of chronic respiratory conditions, antibiotic use for ARI can be curbed in this population that is at high risk for respiratory complications.

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