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Mayo Clin Proc. 2009 May;84(5):403-9. doi: 10.1016/S0025-6196(11)60558-2.

Corticosteroid administration and outcome of adolescents and adults with acute bacterial meningitis: a meta-analysis.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Main Hospital, King Fahd Medical City, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.



To systematically assess the effect of the adjunctive administration of corticosteroids in the treatment of acute bacterial meningitis.


We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis by searching several databases for reports (published from January 1966 through February 2008) of placebo-controlled randomized trials of corticosteroid use in the treatment of adolescents and adults with acute bacterial meningitis. We used random-effects models. Sources of heterogeneity were explored by preplanned subgroup analyses.


The 4 eligible trials (published between 1999 and 2007) were of high methodological quality and included 1261 adult patients. Overall, the short-term mortality rate associated with corticosteroid administration was not significantly lower than that associated with placebo (relative risk [RR], 0.81; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.54-1.20; I(2)=54%). A significant interaction was found between the effect of corticosteroids and the income status of the country (P=.02) and the prevalence of infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among study populations (P=.03). The administration of corticosteroids resulted in a lower short-term mortality rate than did the administration of placebo in high-income countries (pooled RR, 0.5; 95% CI, 0.27-0.92; I(2)=0%) and in the studies with a low prevalence of infection with HIV (RR, 0.66; 95% CI, 0.44-0.99; I(2)=0%). In studies from high-income countries, the number needed to treat with corticosteriods to prevent 1 death and 1 neurologic sequela was 12.5 (95% CI, 7.1-100.0) and 11.0 (95% CI, 5.6-100.0), respectively.


Our meta-analysis suggests that the adjunctive administration of corticosteroids is beneficial in the treatment of adolescents and adults with bacterial meningitis in patient populations similar to those seen in high-income countries and in areas with a low prevalence of HIV infection.

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