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Br J Gen Pract. 2011 Sep;61(590):e542-8. doi: 10.3399/bjgp11X593811.

Acute infective conjunctivitis in primary care: who needs antibiotics? An individual patient data meta-analysis.

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  • 1Newcastle University, Newcastle.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Acute infective conjunctivitis is a common problem in primary care, traditionally managed with topical antibiotics. A number of clinical trials have questioned the benefit of topical antibiotics for patients with acute infective conjunctivitis.

AIM:

To determine the benefit of antibiotics for the treatment of acute infective conjunctivitis in primary care and which subgroups benefit most.

DESIGN:

An individual patient data meta-analysis.

METHOD:

Relevant trials were identified and individual patient data gathered for meta-analysis and subgroup analysis.

RESULTS:

Three eligible trials were identified. Individual patient data were available from all primary care trials and data were available for analysis in 622 patients. Eighty per cent (246/308) of patients who received antibiotics and 74% (233/314) of controls were cured at day 7. There was a significant benefit of antibiotics versus control for cure at seven days in all cases combined (risk difference 0.08, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.01 to 0.14). Subgroups that showed a significant benefit from antibiotics were patients with purulent discharge (risk difference 0.09, 95% CI = 0.01 to 0.17) and patients with mild severity of red eye (risk difference 0.10, 95% CI = 0.02 to 0.18), while the type of control used (placebo drops versus nothing) showed a statistically significant interaction (P=0.03).

CONCLUSION:

Acute conjunctivitis seen in primary care can be thought of as a self-limiting condition, with most patients getting better regardless of antibiotic therapy. Patients with purulent discharge or a mild severity of red eye may have a small benefit from antibiotics. Prescribing practices need to be updated, taking into account these results.

PMID:
22152728
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3162176
Free PMC Article
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