Clinical Pharmacokinetics

, Volume 45, Issue 8, pp 755–773

Antibacterial Dosing in Intensive Care

Pharmacokinetics, Degree of Disease and Pharmacodynamics of Sepsis
Current Opinion


Treatment of sepsis remains a significant challenge with persisting high mortality and morbidity. Early and appropriate antibacterial therapy remains an important intervention for such patients. To optimise antibacterial therapy, the clinician must possess knowledge of the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of commonly used antibacterials and how these parameters may be affected by the constellation of pathophysiological changes occurring during sepsis.

Sepsis, and the treatment thereof, increases renal preload and, via capillary permeability, leads to ‘third-spacing’, both resulting in higher antibacterial clearances. Alternatively, sepsis can induce multiple organ dysfunction, including renal and/or hepatic dysfunction, causing a decrease in antibacterial clearance.

Aminoglycosides are concentration-dependent antibacterials and they display an increased volume of distribution (Vd) in sepsis, resulting in decreased peak serum concentrations. Reduced clearance from renal dysfunction would increase the likelihood of toxicity. Individualised dosing using extended interval dosing, which maximises the peak serum drug concentration (Cmax)/minimum inhibitory concentration ratio is recommended.

β-Lactams and carbapenems are time-dependent antibacterials. An increase in Vd and renal clearance will require increased dosing or administration by continuous infusion. If renal impairment occurs a corresponding dose reduction may be required.

Vancomycin displays predominantly time-dependent pharmacodynamic properties and probably requires higher than conventionally recommended doses because of an increased Vd and clearance during sepsis without organ dysfunction. However, optimal dosing regimens remain unresolved. The poor penetration of vancomycin into solid organs may require alternative therapies when sepsis involves solid organs (e.g. lung).

Ciprofloxacin displays largely concentration-dependent kill characteristics, but also exerts some time-dependent effects. The Vd of ciprofloxacin is not altered with fluid shifts or over time, and thus no alterations of standard doses are required unless renal dysfunction occurs.

In order to optimise antibacterial regimens in patients with sepsis, the pathophysiological effects of systemic inflammatory response syndrome need consideration, in conjunction with knowledge of the different kill characteristics of the various antibacterial classes.

In conclusion, certain antibacterials can have a very high Vd, therefore leading to a low Cmax and if a high peak is needed, then this would lead to underdosing. The Vd of certain antibacterials, namely aminoglycosides and vancomycin, changes over time, which means dosing may need to be altered over time. Some patients with serum creatinine values within the normal range can have very high drug clearances, thereby producing low serum drug levels and again leading to underdosing.

Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Burns, Trauma and Critical Care Research CentreThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Intensive Care MedicineRoyal Brisbane & Women’s HospitalHerstonAustralia

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