DOI: 10.1177/2046-4207.88.2.2019.May.111-114

Recent Findings from a Large-Scale Prospective Study in Northern Ireland Highlight the Efficacy of Antibiotic Prophylaxis in Trauma Surgery

A landmark prospective regional study conducted in Northern Ireland has shed light on the efficacy of different antibiotic prophylaxis protocols in reducing surgical site infections (SSI) rates in trauma surgery. This comprehensive analysis encompassed 26,849 procedures over a span of 10 years, aiming to identify the most effective antibiotic regimen associated with the lowest rate of SSI. The results, published in the Ulster Medical Journal, may significantly influence surgical protocols and antibiotic stewardship in the medical community.

Surgical Site Infections: A Critical Consideration in Trauma Surgery

Surgical site infections present a significant complication in post-operative care for trauma patients. Not only do SSIs increase morbidity and prolong hospital stays, but they also escalate healthcare costs and contribute to the growing concern over antibiotic resistance. Therefore, identifying effective prophylactic strategies is essential for improving patient outcomes and conserving healthcare resources.

The Ulster Study: A Decade of Data

The study spearheaded by Warnock et al. (2019) followed a robust methodology, collecting antibiotic prophylaxis protocols from four major trauma hospitals in Northern Ireland between 2004 and 2014. Quarter by quarter, the study recorded the number of trauma procedures and the consequent SSIs for each hospital through the return of prospectively collected surveillance forms.

Clinical Findings: Comparisons and Conclusions

The findings of the study are compelling. Of the three antibiotic protocols analyzed, single doses of flucloxacillin (2 grams) combined with gentamicin (3mg/kg) emerged superior, boasting an SSI rate of just 0.72% over 11,445 procedures. This regimen was predominantly used in three hospitals over 13.5 years. In contrast, a triple dose cefuroxime (1.5 grams) protocol resulted in a considerably higher SSI rate of 2.46% across 8,864 procedures in two hospitals over a decade. Finally, a single dose cefuroxime (1.5 grams) protocol demonstrated a lower SSI rate of 0.92% over 6,540 procedures across eight years in two hospitals.

Implications for Antibiotic Stewardship and Practice

The results of this large observational cohort study are monumental in implying that single doses of flucloxacillin and gentamicin are associated with the lowest SSI rate. Furthermore, the data suggests that single dose regimens may be more efficient than multiple doses, aligning with the need for meticulous antibiotic stewardship. The priority of curbing SSI rates must be balanced with the critical issue of antibiotic resistance—optimizing the effectiveness of prophylaxis while minimizing the use of antibiotics is key to sustainable healthcare practices.

Importance of Peer-Reviewed Evidence

This study joins a critical body of peer-reviewed research underscoring the importance of evidence-based antibiotic protocols. Previous studies, such as the Randomised controlled trial by Boxma et al. (1996), underline the benefits of single-dose antibiotic prophylaxis in surgery for closed fractures. Furthermore, Public Health England’s surveillance reports on SSIs provide crucial benchmarks for hospital hygiene and prevention measures (

Future Outlook and Research

The Northern Ireland research initiative not only sets a precedent for future regional studies but also offers a template for data-driven protocol adjustments. However, continued research is necessary to refine antibiotic regimens further and to address the nuances of optimal dosing. There is also a need to assess the long-term outcomes of the patient’s post-surgical recovery, the potential for antibiotic-resistant strains, and to investigate alternative antimicrobial materials, as highlighted by Webster et al. (2018).


1. Warnock, Michael M., et al. (2019). “Antibiotic Prophylaxis Protocols and Surgical Site Infection Rates in Trauma Surgery: A Prospective Regional Study of 26,849 Procedures.” Ulster Medical Journal, 88(2), 111-114. PMID: 31061560; PMC: PMC6500417.
2. Boxma, H., et al. (1996). “Randomised controlled trial of single dose antibiotic prophylaxis in surgical treatment of closed fractures: The Dutch Trauma Trial.” Lancet, 347(9009), 1133–7. PMID: 8609746.
3. Public Health England. (2016). “Surveillance of surgical site infections in NHS Hospitals in England,” April 2016 to March 2017. Retrieved from the Government website.
4. Bryson, D.J., et al. (2016). “Antibiotic prophylaxis in orthopaedic surgery.” Bone Joint J, 98-B(8), 1014–9. PMID: 27482011.
5. Li, B., & Webster, T.J. (2018). “Antibiotic Resistance: New Challenges and Opportunities for Implant-Associated Orthopaedic Infections.” J Orthop Res, 36(1), 22–32. PMID: 28722231; PMC: PMC5775060.


1. Antibiotic prophylaxis trauma surgery
2. Surgical site infection rates
3. Effective antibiotic regimens
4. Trauma procedure antibiotic protocols
5. Surgical infection preventive measures