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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(4):CD001435.

Interventions for toxic epidermal necrolysis.

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  • 116 Ariel Close, Basford, Nottingham, UK, NG6 0EH.



Toxic epidermal necrolysis is a rare condition where a drug reaction induces skin loss, similar to that seen in extensive burns. It is associated with high morbidity and mortality and there is no clear agreement on effective treatment.


To assess the effects of all interventions for the treatment of toxic epidermal necrolysis.


We searched the Cochrane Skin Group Specialised Register (March 2001), the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register (March 2001), MEDLINE (1966 to December 2001), EMBASE (1980 to December 2001), DARE (4th Quarter 2001) and CINAHL (1982 to October 2001).


Randomised controlled trials of therapeutic and supportive interventions that included participants clinically diagnosed with toxic epidermal necrolysis were included.


Two independent reviewers carried out study selection and assessment of methodological quality.


Only one randomised controlled trial of treatment was identified. This trial compared the effectiveness of thalidomide with placebo and included 22 patients, 12 in the treatment group and 10 in the placebo group. Patients on the treatment arm received thalidomide 200 mg twice daily for 5 days. The main end point was the measurement of the progression of skin detachment after 7 days. Other end points were the overall mortality and severity of the disease evaluated with the simplified acute physiology score. The study was terminated as the mortality on the treatment arm was 83% compared to 30% on the control arm (relative risk 2.78, 95% confidence interval 1.04 to 7.40). No randomised controlled trials of the most commonly used current treatments i.e. systemic steroids, cyclosporin A and intravenous immunoglobulins were found.


Treatment with thalidomide was not shown to be effective and was associated with significantly higher mortality than placebo. There is no reliable evidence on which to base treatment for toxic epidermal necrolysis, a disease commonly associated with mortality rates of around 30%. More research is required to understand the mechanisms of toxic epidermal necrolysis. International multi-centre studies are needed in the form of randomised controlled trials, to evaluate treatments for toxic epidermal necrolysis, especially those using high doses of steroid and intravenous immunoglobulins.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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