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Existing trials, of poor quality, indicate that antibiotic prophylaxis reduces spontaneous bacterial peritonitis among cirrhotic patients with ascites and no gastrointestinal bleeding

Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (infection and inflammation of the membrane lining the abdominal cavity) is a frequent complication among cirrhotic patients (patients with end‐stage liver disease marked by irreversible scarring of liver tissue) and is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Selective intestinal decontamination, employing antibiotics, is a proposed prophylactic (preventive) measure. This systematic review of randomised clinical trials assesses whether antibiotic prophylaxis prevents spontaneous bacterial peritonitis and mortality among cirrhotic patients with ascites (excess fluid in the abdominal cavity) and no gastrointestinal bleeding. Nine trials are included in the review. The pooled rates of spontaneous bacterial peritonitis and mortality indicate that antibiotic prophylaxis reduces both. There are very few reports of adverse events. Reviewing these trials, we found poor methodology, evidence suggesting publication bias, and limited follow‐up periods. Thus, the recommendation to prescribe prophylactic antibiotics to cirrhotic patients without gastrointestinal bleeding is hampered by quality of the trials that generated the data. Due to potential hazards, both to society as a whole and the patients, as individuals, before antibiotic prophylaxis can be confidently recommended, trials of better design, well reported, and of longer follow‐up are required.

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Plain Language Summaries [Internet] - John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Version: 2009

Antibiotics for spontaneous bacterial peritonitis in cirrhotic patients

Cirrhosis is a severe end‐stage liver disease marked by irreversible scarring of liver tissue. Ascites (the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen), is one of the many complications associated with cirrhosis. Ascites is associated with poor quality of life, increased risk of infection, and renal failure. The presence of ascites is a sign of poor prognosis. Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (inflammation and infection of the membrane that is lining the abdominal cavity) is a complication of cirrhotic ascites that occurs in the absence of any intra‐abdominal, surgically treatable source of infection. Antibiotic therapy is indicated and should be initiated as soon as possible to avoid severe complications that may lead to death. This review aimed to evaluate the beneficial and harmful effects of different types and modes of antibiotic therapy in the treatment of spontaneous bacterial peritonitis in cirrhotic patients. Thirteen trials were included; each one of them compared different antibiotics in their experimental and control groups. No meta‐analyses could be performed, though data on the main outcomes were collected and analysed separately for each included trial. Based on the identified evidence, we cannot suggest the most appropriate management to treat spontaneous bacterial peritonitis in regard to the type, dosage, duration, or administration route of the antibiotic therapy. The clinical trials found dealt with different types of antibiotics, and, therefore, could not be combined. This review found no evidence that the effect or safety of one antibiotic is more beneficial than another. Further randomised clinical trials with an adequate design, including a large number of participants and sufficient duration should be carefully planned to provide a more precise estimate of the beneficial and harmful effects of antibiotic treatment for spontaneous bacterial peritonitis.

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Plain Language Summaries [Internet] - John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Version: 2009

Antibiotic prophylaxis for prevention of bacterial infections and death in cirrhotic patients with upper gastrointestinal bleeding

Patients with liver cirrhosis have an impaired immune response. Often, liver cirrhosis patients experience complications from portal hypertension, such as gastroesophageal varices. These varices can bleed, increasing the risk of infection and death in a short period of time, despite proper endoscopic management. Patients who develop bacterial infections during hospitalisation for gastroesophageal haemorrhage are at increased risk of dying. Twelve trials (1241 patients) assessing several antibiotic prophylaxis regimens versus no intervention or placebo were analysed, showing that antibiotic prophylaxis successfully reduced the incidence of bacterial infections. Antibiotic prophylaxis was also associated with a reduction in mortality, mortality from bacterial infections, rebleeding rate, and days of hospitalisation. The prophylactic treatment was not associated with important adverse effects. Five trials (650 patients) assessed one antibiotic regimen compared with another. All antibiotic regimens provided similar benefits and none seemed superior. Thus, to this point there is no evidence to recommend one specific antibiotic regimen over the other. All trials analysed were subject to bias; thus, results should be interpreted carefully.

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Plain Language Summaries [Internet] - John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Version: 2010

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