Semin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2021 Feb 25:101217. doi: 10.1016/j.siny.2021.101217. Online ahead of print.
Antibiotics are extensively and inconsistently prescribed in neonatal ICUs, and usage does not correlate with rates of culture positive sepsis. There is mounting data describing the short and long-term adverse effects associated with antibiotic overuse in neonates, including the increased burden of multi-drug resistant organisms. Currently there is considerable variation in antibiotic prescribing practice among neonatologists. Applying the practice of antibiotic stewardship in the NICU is crucial for standardizing antibiotic use and improving outcomes in this population. Several approaches have been proposed to identify neonatal sepsis, with the hope of reducing antibiotic utilization. These strategies all have their limitations, and often include laboratory testing and treatment of well-appearing, non-septic, infants. A conservative "watch and wait" algorithm is suggested as an alternative method for when to initiate antibiotics. This observational approach relies on availability of trained personnel able to examine infants at specified intervals, without delaying antibiotics, should signs of sepsis arise.