BACKGROUND: Antibiotic prophylaxis is controversial in patients undergoing axillary lymph node dissection (ALND). We determined whether preoperative antibiotics decreased incidence or treatment cost of infectious complications following ALND. METHODS: Two hundred patients entered this prospective, randomized, double-blind trial. Patients received either placebo or cefonicid preoperatively. Loco-regional signs of infection were monitored for 4 weeks postoperatively. RESULTS: There was a trend toward fewer infections in the prophylactic group (placebo 13% versus cefonicid 6%; P = 0.080). Cefonicid significantly decreased severe infections requiring hospitalization (placebo 8% versus cefonicid 1%; P = 0.033). Cefonicid also decreased the treatment cost of infection per patient ($49.80 versus $364.87). CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrated a trend toward fewer overall infections and significantly fewer severe infections in patients given prophylactic antibiotics, which translated into a decrease in the cost of treatment for infectious complications. These findings support antibiotic prophylaxis for patients undergoing ALND.
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