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J Hepatol. 2000 Apr;32(4):596-602.

Amoxicillin-clavulanic acid versus cefotaxime in the therapy of bacterial infections in cirrhotic patients.

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  • 1Department of Gastroenterology, Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain.



Cefotaxime is considered the first-choice antibiotic for empirical treatment in cirrhotic patients developing bacterial infections. It has been suggested that amoxicillin-clavulanic acid could be an alternative to cefotaxime, particularly in patients developing bacterial infections while on prophylactic norfloxacin. The aim of the present study was to compare amoxicillin-clavulanic acid with cefotaxime in the treatment of bacterial infections in cirrhosis.


Ninety-six hospitalized cirrhotic patients with suspicion of bacterial infection were prospectively included and randomized into two groups: one group (n=48) received amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, first intravenously 1 g-0.2 g every 8 h, and then orally 500 mg-125 mg every 8 h, and the other group (n=48) received intravenous cefotaxime 1 g every 6 h. Patients were stratified for previous prophylaxis with norfloxacin and ascitic fluid infection.


Sixteen patients were excluded from the analysis because bacterial infection was not demonstrated or because of secondary peritonitis. Therefore, 38 patients from the amoxicillin-clavulanic acid group and 42 from the cefotaxime group were finally analyzed. There were 24 ascitic fluid infections in each group. Infection resolution (86.8% vs 88%, 95% CI: -0.15 to 0.13, p NS), spontaneous bacterial peritonitis resolution (87.5% vs 83.3%, 95% CI: -0.15 to 0.24, p NS), duration of treatment, incidence of complications, time of hospitalization and hospital mortality were similar in both groups. Considering patients on prophylactic norfloxacin, infection resolution was also similar (100% vs 83.3%, 95% CI: -0.04 to 0.37, p NS). No adverse events were observed in either of the two groups. The cost of antibiotics was statistically lower in the amoxicillin-clavulanic acid group (p<0.001).


Amoxicillin-clavulanic acid is as effective as cefotaxime in the treatment of bacterial infections in cirrhotic patients, but is less expensive and can be administered orally. These results suggest that amoxicillin-clavulanic acid is an effective alternative to cefotaxime for the empirical treatment of bacterial infections in cirrhosis.

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