Pilot trial of selective decontamination for prevention of bacterial infection in an intensive care unit

John Flaherty, Catherine Nathan, Sherwin A. Kabins, Robert A. Weinstein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Selective decontamination of the oropharynx and gastrointestinal tract with nonabsorbable antimicrobials and sucralfate, a stress ulcer prophylactic that maintains the 'normal gastric acid bacterial barrier, were compared for prevention of pneumonia in a cardiac surgery intensive care unit. Over 8 months, 51 patients received selective decontamination and 56 received sucralfate. The selective decontamination regimen included polymyxin, gentamicin, and nystatin given as an oral paste and as a solution; patients also received standard antacid or histamin blocker stress ulcer prophylaxis. Patients in the selective decontamination group had significantly less colonization of the oropharynx and stomach by gram-negative bacilli (12% vs. 55%, P<.001), significantly fewer infections due to gram-negative bacilli (6% vs. 20%, P =.02), and fewer infections overall (12% vs. 27%, P =.04). There was one episode of pneumonia in the selective decontamination group and five in the sucralfate group. Mortality and length of stay did not differ between the groups, but those receiving selective decontamination had less than one-third as many days of systemic antibiotic therapy with no increase in colonization or infection with resistant gram-negative bacilli. Thus, selective decontamination appeared to reduce both extrapulmonary and pulmonary infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1393-1397
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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