Hospital-acquired infections still represent a serious threat to the surgical patient. A nationwide survey of 259 Italian surgical wards involving 11,343 patients was conducted in October 1988. Hospital-acquired infections were recorded in 565 (5%) patients: the microorganisms most commonly involved were gram-negative rods (60% of all isolates), 41% of the infected patients presented one or more intrinsic predisposing factor, and 65% had undergone some invasive procedure. The studied group represented 23% of all surgical patients in the country on the days of the survey. Following the epidemiologic survey, an open multicenter study was conducted in the same wards to evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of cefotaxime (1 g, 2 or 3 times per day) in the treatment of nosocomial surgical infections. Among 3,032 evaluable patients, 1,295 intra-abdominal, 610 wound and soft tissue, 554 urinary, and 367 respiratory infections were observed. Treatment was judged to be clinically effective in 94% of patients, and side effects, mostly involving the gastrointestinal tract, were observed in 1.4% of patients; but interruption of the treatment was required only in 19 patients (0.6%). This study confirms that cefotaxime, after over a decade of use, retains high efficacy in the treatment for nosocomial infections and induces a low rate of side effects.
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