Impact of Patient-Reported Penicillin Allergy on Antibiotic Prophylaxis and Surgical Site Infection among Patients Undergoing Colorectal Surgery

Aimal Khan, Dallas D. Wolford, Gerald O. Ogola, Rachel F. Thompson, Pamela Daher, Sarah B. Stringfield, Anthony C. Waddimba, Warren E. Lichliter, Walter R. Peters, Alessandro Fichera, James W. Fleshman, Katerina O. Wells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Surgical site infections are a major preventable source of morbidity, mortality, and increased health care expenditures after colorectal surgery. Patients with penicillin allergy may not receive the recommended preoperative antibiotics, putting them at increased risk for surgical site infections. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to evaluate the impact of patient-reported penicillin allergy on preoperative antibiotic prophylaxis and surgical site infection rates among patients undergoing major colon and rectal procedures. DESIGN: This is a retrospective observational study. SETTING: This study was conducted at a tertiary teaching hospital in Dallas. PATIENTS: Adults undergoing colectomy or proctectomy between July 2012 and July 2019 were included. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcomes measured were preoperative antibiotic choice and surgical site infection. RESULTS: Among 2198 patients included in the study, 12.26% (n = 307) reported a penicillin allergy. Patients with penicillin allergy were more likely to be white (82%) and female (54%; p < 0.01). The most common type of allergic reaction reported was rash (36.5%), whereas 7.2% of patients reported anaphylaxis. Patients with self-reported penicillin allergy were less likely to receive beta-lactam antibiotics than patients who did not report a penicillin allergy (79.8% vs 96.7%, p < 0.001). Overall, 143 (6.5%) patients had surgical site infections. On multivariable logistic regression, there was no difference in rates of surgical site infection between patients with penicillin allergy vs those without penicillin allergy (adjusted OR 1.14; 95% CI, 0.71-1.82). LIMITATIONS: A limitation of this study was its retrospective study design. CONCLUSIONS: Self-reported penicillin allergy among patients undergoing colorectal surgery is common; however, only a small number of these patients report any serious adverse reactions. Patients with self-reported penicillin allergy are less likely to receive beta-lactam antibiotics and more likely to receive non-beta-lactam antibiotics. However, this does not affect the rate of surgical site infection among these patients, and these patients can be safely prescribed non-beta-lactam antibiotics without negatively impacting surgical site infection rates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1397-1404
Number of pages8
JournalDiseases of the Colon and Rectum
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Colorectal surgery
  • Penicillin allergy
  • Preoperative antibiotics
  • Surgical site infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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