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Crit Care. 2008; 12(3): R76.
Published online Jun 11, 2008. doi:  10.1186/cc6922
PMCID: PMC2481473

The role of corticosteroids in severe community-acquired pneumonia: a systematic review

Abstract

Introduction

The purpose of this review was to evaluate the impact of corticosteroids on the outcomes of patients with severe community-acquired pneumonia (CAP).

Methods

We performed a systematic MEDLINE, Cochrane database, and CINAHL search (1966 to November 2007) to identify full-text publications that evaluated the use of corticosteroids in CAP.

Results

An initial literature search yielded 109 articles, and 105 studies were excluded after the first analysis. We found four studies eligible for analysis. On the basis of their results, the use of corticosteroids as adjunctive therapy in severe CAP should be categorized as a weak recommendation (two studies) and a strong recommendation (two studies) with either low- or moderate-quality evidence. However, no evidence of adverse outcomes or harm is present in the evaluated studies.

Conclusion

According to the GRADE system, available studies do not support the recommendation of corticosteroids as a standard of care for patients with severe CAP. Further randomized controlled trials with this aim should enroll a larger number of severely ill patients. However, in patients needing corticosteroids, it may be reasonable to conclude that corticosteroid administration is safe in patients with severe infections receiving antimicrobial therapy.


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