Corticosteroids for treating severe sepsis and septic shock

D Annane, E Bellissant, P E Bollaert, J Briegel, D Keh, Y Kupfer
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2004, (1): CD002243

BACKGROUND: Sepsis may be complicated by impaired corticosteroid production. Giving corticosteroids could potentially benefit patients.

OBJECTIVES: To examine the effects of corticosteroids on death at one month in patients with severe sepsis and septic shock.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group's trial register (August 2003), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library Issue 3, 2003), MEDLINE (August 2003), EMBASE (August 2003), LILACS (August 2003), reference lists of articles, and also contacted trial authors.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomized and quasi-randomized controlled trials of corticosteroids versus placebo or supportive treatment in severe sepsis and septic shock.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two pairs of reviewers agreed the eligibility of trials. One reviewer extracted data, which was checked by the other reviewers and the primary author of the paper whenever possible. We obtained some missing data from the trial authors. We assessed trial methodological quality.

MAIN RESULTS: We identified 15 trials (n =2023). Corticosteroids did not change 28-day all-cause mortality (15 trials, n = 2022, relative risk (RR) 0.92, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.75 to 1.14; random effects model) and hospital mortality (13 trials, n = 1418, RR 0.89, 95% CI 0.71 to 1.11; random effects model); however, there was statistically significant heterogeneity, with some evidence that this was related to the dosing strategy. Corticosteroids reduced intensive care unit mortality (4 trials, n = 425, RR 0.83, 95% CI 0.70 to 0.97), increased the proportion of shock reversal by day 7 (6 trials, n = 728, RR 1.22, 95% CI 1.06 to 1.40) and by day 28 (4 trials, n = 425, RR 1.26, 95% CI 1.04 to 1.52), without increasing the rate of gastroduodenal bleeding (10 trials, n = 1321, RR 1.16, 95% CI 0.82 to 1.65), superinfection (12 trials, n = 1705, RR 0.93, 95% CI 0.73 to 1.18), and of hyperglycaemia (6 trials, n = 608, RR 1.22, 0.84 to 1.78).

REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: Overall, corticosteroids did not change 28-day mortality and hospital mortality in severe sepsis and septic shock. Long course of low dose corticosteroids reduced 28-day all-cause mortality, and intensive care unit and hospital mortality.

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