UMMS Affiliation

Department of Emergency Medicine



Document Type



Bacterial Infections and Mycoses | Clinical Epidemiology | Emergency Medicine


BACKGROUND: Skin and soft tissue infection (SSTIs) are commonly treated in emergency departments (EDs). While the precise role of antibiotics in treating SSTIs remains unclear, most SSTI patients receive empiric antibiotics, often targeted toward methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The goal of this study was to assess the efficiency with which ED clinicians targeted empiric therapy against MRSA, and to identify factors that may allow ED clinicians to safely target antibiotic use.

METHODS: We performed a retrospective analysis of patient visits for community-acquired SSTIs to three urban, academic EDs in one northeastern US city during the first quarter of 2010. We examined microbiologic patterns among cultured SSTIs, and relationships between clinical and demographic factors and management of SSTIs.

RESULTS: Antibiotics were prescribed to 86.1% of all patients. Though S. aureus (60% MRSA) was the most common pathogen cultured, antibiotic susceptibility differed between adult and pediatric patients. Susceptibility of S. aureus from ED SSTIs differed from published local antibiograms, with greater trimethoprim resistance and less fluoroquinolone resistance than seen in S. aureus from all hospital sources. Empiric antibiotics covered the resultant pathogen in 85.3% of cases, though coverage was frequently broader than necessary.

CONCLUSIONS: Though S. aureus remained the predominant pathogen in community-acquired SSTIs, ED clinicians did not accurately target therapy toward the causative pathogen. Incomplete local epidemiologic data may contribute to this degree of discordance. Future efforts should seek to identify when antibiotic use can be narrowed or withheld. Local, disease-specific antibiotic resistance patterns should be publicized with the goal of improving antibiotic stewardship.

Rights and Permissions

Citation: Merritt C, Haran JP, Mintzer J, Stricker J, Merchant RC. All purulence is local - epidemiology and management of skin and soft tissue infections in three urban emergency departments. BMC Emerg Med. 2013 Dec 20;13:26. doi:10.1186/1471-227X-13-26. Link to article on publisher's site


Copyright 2013 Merritt et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed


Skin and soft tissue infections, Antibiotic resistance, Antimicrobial stewardship



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