Antibiotic prophylaxis of bacterial infections in cirrhotic inpatients: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Scand J Gastroenterol. 2003 Feb;38(2):193-200. doi: 10.1080/00365520310000690.


Background: Antibiotic prophylaxis has been reported to decrease bacterial infections and fatality rates in inpatients with cirrhosis. We performed a systematic review to evaluate the efficacy of antibiotic prophylaxis in inpatients with cirrhosis, regardless of the underlying risk factors that led to hospital admission.

Methods: A comprehensive literature search strategy was performed including the Cochrane Library, Embase, Medline, a manual search of bibliographic references, and contacting the authors of each included trial. We included any randomized clinical trial comparing different types of antibiotic prophylaxis with placebo or no intervention in inpatients with cirrhosis. Two reviewers independently applied the selection criteria to all identified references, appraised the methodological quality of each trial and extracted the relevant data. Relative risks and 95% confidence intervals were estimated using the fixed effect model. A test of heterogeneity and a funnel plot were performed and an intention-to-treat approach was used for the outcome measures.

Results: Nineteen randomized trials were identified, 13 of which were included in the review. A significant beneficial effect on mortality (RR: 0.70; 95% CI: 0.56, 0.89) and prevention of bacterial infections (RR: 0.39; 95% CI: 0.32, 0.48) was observed, regardless of the underlying risk factors. Few adverse events were reported and there was no heterogeneity between studies. We identified a funnel plot asymmetry for the included trials.

Conclusions: Antibiotic prophylaxis for inpatients with cirrhosis is efficacious in reducing the number of deaths and bacterial infections regardless of the underlying risk factors.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis*
  • Bacterial Infections / prevention & control*
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / microbiology*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Factors