Journal Article
Systematic Review
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Antibiotics for acute laryngitis in adults.

BACKGROUND: Acute laryngitis is a common illness worldwide. Diagnosis is often made by case history alone and treatment is often directed towards controlling symptoms.

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this review was to assess the effectiveness of different antibiotic therapies in adults suffering acute laryngitis. A secondary objective was to report the rates of adverse events associated with these treatments.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We systematically screened the following electronic databases: the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library Issue 4, 2006); MEDLINE (January 1966 to December Week 2 2006); and EMBASE (1974 to June 2006), LILACS (from 1982 to December 2006 ) and BIOSIS (1980 to June 2002). Other strategies included hand searching relevant journals, searching ongoing trial databases and general databases such as Google scholar.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomized controlled trials comparing any antibiotic therapy with placebo in acute laryngitis. The main outcome measurement was objective voice scores.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Data were independently extracted by two review authors and then descriptively synthesized.

MAIN RESULTS: Only two trials met study inclusion criteria after extensive literature searches. One hundred participants were randomly selected to receive either penicillin V (800 mg twice a day for five days), or an identical placebo, in a study of penicillin V in acute laryngitis in adults. A tape recording of each patient reading a standardized text was obtained during the first visit, subsequently during re-examination after one and two weeks, and at follow up after two to six months. No significant differences were found between the groups. The trial also measured symptoms reported by participants and found no significant differences. The second trial investigated erythromycin for treating acute laryngitis in 106 adults. The mean objective voice scores measured at the first visit, at re-examination after one and two weeks, and at follow up after two to six months did not significantly differ between control and intervention groups. At one week there were significant beneficial differences in the severity of reported vocal symptoms as judged by the participants (P = 0.042). Comparing the erythromycin and placebo groups on subjective voice scores the a priori relative risk (RR) was 0.7 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.51 to 0.96, P = 0.034) and the number needed to treat (NNT) was 4.5.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Antibiotics appear to have no benefit in treating acute laryngitis. Erythromycin could reduce voice disturbance at one week and cough at two weeks when measured subjectively. We consider that these outcomes are not relevant in clinical practice. The implications for practice are that prescribing antibiotics should not be done in the first instance as they will not objectively improve symptoms.

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