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The effect of preoperative penicillin allergy testing on perioperative non‐beta-lactam antibiotic use: A systematic review and meta-analysis

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The majority of patients for elective surgery and with a history of penicillin allergy are placed on alternative prophylactic antibiotic therapies, which have been associated with the emergence of multidrug-resistant pathogens and increased morbidity and mortality rates. However, self-reporting of penicillin allergy alone may overestimate the prevalence of penicillin allergy in the population.


To assess the effects of preoperative antibiotic allergy testing protocols in reducing the use of non‐beta-lactam antibiotics.


We searched medical literature data bases through July of 2018. Two reviewers independently extracted data from published studies and assessed the risk of bias in cohort studies by using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale. We collected information related to study design, methodology, demographics, interventions, and outcomes. We pooled odds ratios for the rate of prescribing non‐beta-lactam antibiotics by using a fixed-effects model.


Of 905 citations screened for eligibility, nine studies met inclusion criteria for qualitative analysis. Studies reported that the rates of non‐beta-lactam use after preoperative skin testing ranged from 6 to 30%. In addition, four of the nine studies had sufficient control data to be included in a meta-analysis. These four studies found that preoperative testing protocols significantly decreased the rates of prescribing non‐beta-lactam antibiotics compared with usual care (odds ratio 3.64 [95% confidence interval, 2.67‐4.98]; p < 0.0001). Seven studies reported on adverse drug reactions after preoperative skin testing and found that the rate of such reactions was rare.


Preoperative antibiotic allergy testing protocols seemed to be a safe and effective tool in reducing the use of non‐beta-lactam antibiotics during surgery.
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Keywords: Preoperative; allergy; allergy skin testing; antimicrobial stewardship; penicillin; surgical prophylaxis; testing; vancomycin; β-lactam

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: From Education Division, The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Lebanon, New Hampshire

Publication date: November 1, 2018

More about this publication?
  • Allergy and Asthma Proceedings is a peer reviewed publication dedicated to distributing timely scientific research regarding advancements in the knowledge and practice of allergy, asthma and immunology. Its primary readership consists of allergists and pulmonologists.

    The goal of the Proceedings is to publish articles with a predominantly clinical focus which directly impact quality of care for patients with allergic disease and asthma and by having the potential to directly impact the quality of patient care. AAP welcomes the submission of original works including peer-reviewed original research and clinical trial results. Additionally, as the official journal of the Eastern Allergy Conference (EAC), AAP will publish content from EAC poster sessions as well as review articles derived from EAC lectures.

    Featured topics include asthma, rhinitis, sinusitis, food allergies, allergic skin diseases, diagnostic techniques, allergens, and treatment modalities. Published material includes peer-reviewed original research, clinical trials and review articles.

    Articles marked "F" offer free full text for personal noncommercial use only.

    The journal is indexed in Thomson Reuters Web of Science and Science Citation Index Expanded, plus the National Library of Medicine's PubMed service.
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