Antibiotic Prophylaxis for the Prevention of Infection after Major Limb Amputation

J. McIntosh, J. J. Earnshaw*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Major limb amputation is often required by patients with a limited capacity to tolerate post-operative complications. Amputation stump infection is common and may necessitate re-amputation, potentially exposing a vulnerable patient to further serious complications. Effective antibiotic strategies should be employed to reduce wound infection after major amputation. Methods: Online databases were searched to identify studies regarding reduction in wound infection following major limb amputation. Only four randomised studies were identified comparing antibiotic prophylaxis with control; a further three evaluated the efficacy of specific antibiotics. Study design, end-points and outcome data were recorded. The data were too heterogeneous for formal meta-analysis. Results: Prophylactic antibiotics significantly reduced rates of stump infection in all studies, and were associated with a reduced rate of re-amputation in one. Where investigated, the type of antibiotic did not affect rates of infection. In non-randomised studies, infection with methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) increased the risk of complications and post-operative death. Conclusion: It is agreed that prophylactic antibiotics are part of the standard of care for amputation surgery, and this is supported by limited, mostly historical-controlled data. Evolution of the bacterial threat means that future studies should assess the role and type of prophylaxis for patients with existing bacterial colonisation or infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)696-703
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Amputation
  • Antibiotic prophylaxis
  • Wound infection


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