BACKGROUND--Although antimicrobial prophylaxis for infective endocarditis (IE) is common practice for many dental procedures, there is little information on whether it represents value for money. A study was performed to evaluate the effectiveness of prophylaxis for all at risk patients in routine dental practice with published data from the United Kingdom. METHODS--The risk of contracting infective endocarditis was calculated from published data to find (for high risk patients) both the annual number of deaths attributable to infective endocarditis and the number of high risk dental procedures performed without prophylaxis. Costs are estimated by examining the notes of 63 patients with proved IE during the decade 1980-90. RESULTS--Such prophylaxis is highly cost effective before dental extractions, but its value for other invasive dental procedures is unproved. It was calculated that, for every 10,000 extractions in at risk patients, appropriate prophylaxis will prevent 5.7 deaths and a further 22.85 cases of non-fatal IE. This represents a saving in the costs of hospital care of 289,600 pounds for 10,000 extractions. CONCLUSION--Prophylaxis to prevent IE in at risk patients undergoing dental extraction is highly cost effective. Net savings each year throughout the United Kingdom, that might be achieved by improving the existing proportion of such patients given antibiotics from its present level of about 50% would amount to 2.5 million pounds and would prevent over 50 deaths.
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