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Ann Emerg Med. 2019 Jan;73(1):8-16. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2018.02.011. Epub 2018 Mar 9.

Systemic Antibiotics for the Treatment of Skin and Soft Tissue Abscesses: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.

Author information

1
Department of Emergency Medicine, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL. Electronic address: michaelgottliebmd@gmail.com.
2
Department of Emergency Medicine, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL.

Abstract

STUDY OBJECTIVE:

The addition of antibiotics to standard incision and drainage is controversial, with earlier studies demonstrating no significant benefit. However, 2 large, multicenter trials have recently been published that have challenged the previous literature. The goal of this review was to determine whether systemic antibiotics for abscesses after incision and drainage improve cure rates.

METHODS:

PubMed, the Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Scopus, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and bibliographies of selected articles were assessed for all randomized controlled trials comparing adjuvant antibiotics with placebo in the treatment of drained abscesses, with an outcome of treatment failure assessed within 21 days. Data were dual extracted into a predefined worksheet and quality analysis was performed with the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool.

RESULTS:

Four studies (n=2,406 participants) were identified. There were 89 treatment failures (7.7%) in the antibiotic group and 150 (16.1%) in the placebo group. The calculated risk difference was 7.4% (95% confidence interval [CI] 2.8% to 12.1%), with an odds ratio for clinical cure of 2.32 (95% CI 1.75 to 3.08) in favor of the antibiotic group. There was also a decreased incidence of new lesions in the antibiotic group (risk difference -10.0%, 95% CI -12.8% to -7.2%; odds ratio 0.32, 95% CI 0.23 to 0.44), with a minimally increased risk of minor adverse events (risk difference 4.4%, 95% CI 1.0% to 7.8%; odds ratio 1.29, 95% CI 1.06 to 1.58).

CONCLUSION:

The use of systemic antibiotics for skin and soft tissue abscesses after incision and drainage resulted in an increased rate of clinical cure. Providers should consider the use of antibiotics while balancing the risk of adverse events.

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