PMID: 3536382Nov 1, 1986

Hematological effects associated with beta-lactam use

Drug Intelligence & Clinical Pharmacy
L M Babiak, M J Rybak


Beta-lactam antibiotics have continued to be the mainstay of antiinfective treatment. Newer agents, such as the third-generation cephalosporins or ureidopenicillins, have the advantage of a broader antimicrobial spectrum and improved pharmacokinetics. The beta-lactams are often promoted as alternatives to more toxic antibiotic regimens. However, several of the beta-lactams have been shown to produce hematological effects, some of which can be life threatening. The primary hematological effects appear to be inhibition of normal platelet function and the coagulation cascade, which is reflected by changes in bleeding times and increases in prothrombin time and activated partial thromboplastin time, respectively. Although not all patients will develop bleeding problems associated with these agents, close monitoring of patients with risk factors for bleeding and dosage adjustments may help to avert these drug-induced hematological problems.


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