Systemic antibiotics are a valuable therapeutic modality in the burned patient when properly used. Injudicious use, however, may not fail to be beneficial to the patient but also may produce harmful effects: either through direct toxicity or by contributing to the emergence of resistant strains of micro-organisms. General guidelines and principles for systemic antibiotic use include the following: 1. The burned patient, despite all efforts, will be exposed to microorganisms. 2. No single agent or combination of agents can destroy all the organisms to which the burned patient is exposed. 3. Treatment involves first identifying the organism responsible for clinical sepsis, then choosing appropriate agents. 4. Combinations of antibiotics are not always synergistic or even additive in effect. 5. Multiagent therapy may have the untoward effect of predisposing to superinfection by yeast, fungi, or resistant organisms. 6. Antibiotics should be used for a long enough period to produce an effect, but not long enough to allow for emergence of opportunistic or resistant organisms. 7. Dosages must be adjusted based on serum concentrations when serum assays are available. In general prophylactic systemic antibiotics are indicated in only a few clinical situations including the immediate preoperative and postoperative periods associated with excision and autografting, and possibly in the early phases of burns in children. The penetration of systemic antibiotics into burn eschar remains an area not fully studied; hence, they cannot be the only therapeutic modality used to treat burn wound infection. Systemic dosages of antibiotics in burns will require alteration depending on the clinical status of the patient. The choice of agent requires a thorough knowledge of side effects, toxicity, and potential benefit. Above all, active surveillance and monitoring of the burned patient and the environment in which he or she is being treated is mandatory for effective treatment. The increasing number of new antimicrobial agents has presented a new dilemma to the practicing clinician because many of these agents have not been evaluated throughly in the burned population. With further studies, the armamentarium of the burn treatment team will inevitably increase. It is this manner only that so many of the unanswered questions will be solved, and that infection will start to decline as the major cause of death in the burned population.
ASJC Scopus subject areas