Patients with a history of chronic debilitating disease due to a variety of causes are known to be at risk for infection with coliform gram-negative bacilli when they present with community-acquired pneumonia. Empiric treatment with broad-spectrum parenteral antibiotics is often begun in such patients pending the result of blood and other cultures. The optimal duration of broad-spectrum empiric therapy in such patients when cultures fail to reveal a specific pathogen is unknown. Review was made of the charts of 131 patients with community-acquired pneumonia admitted to the hospital and treated with broad-spectrum parenteral antibiotics in whom a specific pathogen was never isolated. Overall, 89 percent of these patients were cured without complication or relapse. Patients receiving broad-spectrum therapy for four days or less due to rapid clinical improvement had a successful outcome in 95 percent of cases. It is concluded that broad-spectrum parenteral antibiotic therapy can safely be abbreviated provided response to therapy is prompt.
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