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What Is Ertapenem?

By Christina Whyte
Updated May 17, 2024
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Ertapenem is a carbapenem-type antibiotic used to stop bacterial growth and fight infection in a variety of conditions and situations. Administering it requires some special steps because it is an injection rather than an oral medication. While it is generally a safe drug, ertapenem can have some side effects and can also interact with other medications.

There are a number of different infections for which ertapenem can be used, including severe skin, stomach, pelvic, or urinary tract infections as well as community acquired pneumonia. Ertapenem can also be used to prevent bacterial infection, such as when undergoing surgery. This medication will not work for viral infections, such as the flu, and is only appropriate for bacterial infections. Extended use of antibiotics can lead to more serious infections due to bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics.

This medication must be injected into muscle or delivered through an intravenous injection system, so only people who are trained and comfortable giving injections should administer it. Ertapenem also needs to be mixed before use. Patients need to carefully follow instructions to make sure this is done properly. Antibiotics are most effective when given at regular intervals, so remembering doses is important. Stopping antibiotic treatment too early can lead to a recurrence of the infection.

Like any medication, ertapenem can have some side effects. The most common side effects are pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site, followed by headaches and gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea and diarrhea. More serious side effects rarely occur, but patients should seek medical attention if they experience fever, severe muscular pain or stiffness, problems breathing, seizures or trembling, or bloody diarrhea. Patients should ask the prescribing doctor about any persistent, bothersome, or unusual side effects.

People who are allergic to any antibiotics, such as penicillin, or local anesthetics should take special care to make sure the prescribing doctor knows about these allergies. A history of problems with the central nervous system, such as seizures, the gastrointestinal system, or the kidneys should also be shared with the doctor. Women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or nursing should discuss this with their doctors before taking ertapenem. Effectiveness of some birth control pills may be reduced by antibiotics, and so women may need to consider alternate forms of birth control while on antibiotics. The prescribing doctor should be told about all medications and vitamins a patient is taking, including over the counter medicine and herbal supplements.

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