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A focus on intra-abdominal infections

Massimo Sartelli

Author Affiliations

Department of Surgery, Macerata Hospital - Via Santa Lucia 2, 62100 Macerata - Italy

World Journal of Emergency Surgery 2010, 5:9  doi:10.1186/1749-7922-5-9

Published: 19 March 2010


Complicated intra-abdominal infections are an important cause of morbidity and are frequently associated with poor prognosis, particularly in higher risk patients.

Well defined evidence-based recommendations for intra-abdominal infections treatment are partially lacking because of the limited number of randomized-controlled trials.

Factors consistently associated with poor outcomes in patients with intra-abdominal infections include increased illness severity, failed source control, inadequate empiric antimicrobial therapy and healthcare-acquired infection.

Early prognostic evaluation of complicated intra-abdominal infections is important to select high-risk patients for more aggressive therapeutic procedures.

The cornerstones in the management of complicated intra-abdominal infections are both source control and antibiotic therapy.

The timing and the adequacy of source control are the most important issues in the management of intra-abdominal infections, because inadequate and late control of septic source may have a negative effect on the outcomes.

Recent advances in interventional and more aggressive techniques could significantly decrease the morbidity and mortality of physiologically severe complicated intra-abdominal infections, even if these are still being debated and are yet not validated by limited prospective trials.

Empiric antimicrobial therapy is nevertheless important in the overall management of intra-abdominal infections. Inappropriate antibiotic therapy may result in poor patient outcomes and in the appearance of bacterial resistance.

Antimicrobial management is generally standardised and many regimens, either with monotherapy or combination therapy, have proven their efficacy. Routine coverage especially against Enterococci and candida spp is not always recommended, but can be useful in particular clinical conditions. A de escalation approach may be recommended in patients with specific risk factors for multidrug resistant infections such as immunodeficiency and prolonged antibacterial exposure.

Therapy should focus on the obtainment of adequate source control and adequate use of antimicrobial therapy dictated by individual patient risk factors. Other critical issues remain debated and more controversies are still open mainly because of the limited number of randomized controlled trials.