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BMJ. 2004 Mar 20;328(7441):668. Epub 2004 Mar 2.

Beta lactam monotherapy versus beta lactam-aminoglycoside combination therapy for sepsis in immunocompetent patients: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised trials.

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  • 1Department of Medicine E and Infectious Diseases Unit, Rabin Medical Centre, Beilinson Campus, Petah-Tikva 49100, Israel.

Erratum in

  • BMJ. 2004 Apr 10;328(7444):884.



To compare beta lactam monotherapy with beta lactam-aminoglycoside combination therapy for severe infections.


Medline, Embase, Lilacs, Cochrane Library, and conference proceedings, to 2003; references of included studies; contact with all authors. No restrictions, such as language, year of publication, or publication status.


All randomised trials of beta lactam monotherapy compared with beta lactam-aminoglycoside combination therapy for patients without neutropenia who fulfilled criteria for sepsis.


Two reviewers independently applied selection criteria, performed quality assessment, and extracted the data. The primary outcome assessed was all cause fatality by intention to treat. Relative risks were pooled with the random effect model (relative risk < 1 favours monotherapy).


64 trials with 7586 patients were included. There was no difference in all cause fatality (relative risk 0.90, 95% confidence interval 0.77 to 1.06). 12 studies compared the same beta lactam (1.02, 0.76 to 1.38), and 31 studies compared different beta lactams (0.85, 0.69 to 1.05). Clinical failure was more common with combination treatment overall (0.87, 0.78 to 0.97) and among studies comparing different beta lactams (0.76, 0.68 to 0.86). There was no advantage to combination therapy among patients with Gram negative infections (1835 patients) or Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections (426 patients). There was no difference in the rate of development of resistance. Nephrotoxicity was significantly more common with combination therapy (0.36, 0.28 to 0.47). Heterogeneity was not significant for these comparisons.


In the treatment of sepsis the addition of an aminoglycoside to beta lactams should be discouraged. Fatality remains unchanged, while the risk for adverse events is increased.

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