Ought ‘Standard Care’ Be the 'Standard of Care'? A Study of the Time to Administration of Antibiotics in Children With Meningitis

William L. Meadow*, John Lantos, Robert R. Tanz, David Mendez, Rebecca Unger, Peter Wallskog

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


To determine the time from triage in an emergency department until administration of parenteral antibiotics in children with bacterial meningitis. —Retrospective review of medical records and survey of medical subspecialists in infectious diseases and emergency medicine. —Emergency departments of two university-affiliated pediatric hospitals. —All children with bacterial meningitis identified in medical records from 1987 to 1989 —For each child, the time from presentation to the emergency department until administration of antibiotics was determined; when possible, time from triage to contact with a physician, from triage to lumbar puncture, and from lumbar puncture to administration of antibiotics was measured. We then surveyed specialists in both pediatric infectious diseases and pediatric emergency medicine as to their beliefs about AB time in children with meningitis. —Mann-Whitney Rank Sum Test and Kruskal-Wallis Test. —Median AB time was 2.0 hours Only one of 93 children received antibiotics within 30 minutes of presentation. Median time from triage until contact with a physician was 0.45 hour. Median time from lumbar puncture until antibiotics administration was about 0.5 hour. The estimates of median AB time differed significantly between emergency medicine and infectious disease experts, and estimates from both differed significantly from the median AB time actually observed. —These data reveal that the usual and customary practice (ie, standard medical care) by qualified physicians may differ from opinions of standard medical care promulgated by medical experts. Even among experts there is a wide range of (mistaken) opinions about standard medical care. Insofar as jurors in medical malpractice cases are instructed to consider what physicians “ordinarily do in similar circumstances” a data-based definition of “standard” medical care should supplant anecdotal testimony by individual expert witnesses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-44
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Diseases of Children
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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