Background: Patients with bloodstream infections need early adequate antimicrobial treatment to reduce mortality. This raises the question of timing and logistics. How important is the time of day when a culture is flagged positive to the processing of blood cultures and optimisation of antimicrobial therapy?
Methods: We performed a retrospective study assessing the time delay of a positive blood culture result during and after office hours and its impact on adequate antimicrobial therapy. Process duration from the moment of culture positivity to Gram stain completion was compared at different timepoints during the day in a medium-sized hospital with an offsite microbiological laboratory.
Results: Ninety-four patients with positive, noncontaminated blood cultures were included. Sixty-six patients (70%) received adequate empirical therapy; this increased to 76 cases (82%) and to 88 cases (95%) after analysis of Gram stain results and complete determination,
respectively (p < 0.05 for all comparisons). Median duration from culture positivity to Gram stain completion (including offsite culture transport) increased from a median of four to 12 hours if time of cultures turned positive after office hours (p < 0.05), irrespective of the adequacy of empirical coverage. This also resulted in a median 12-hour delay for the complete process from time of culture positivity to administration of the antimicrobial drug (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: Processing blood cultures after office hours is often deferred, which can lead to a delay in adequate antimicrobial therapy for patients with bloodstream infections.