Objective: To assess the evidence for prophylactic treatment with systemic antibiotics in burns patients.
Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised or quasi-randomised controlled trials recruiting burns inpatients that compared antibiotic prophylaxis (systemic, non-absorbable, or topical) with placebo or no treatment.
Data sources: PubMed, Cochrane Library, LILACS, Embase, conference proceedings, and bibliographies. No language, date, or publication status restrictions were imposed. Review methods Two reviewers independently extracted data. The primary outcome was all cause mortality. Risk or rate ratios with 95% confidence intervals were pooled with a fixed effect model if no heterogeneity was present.
Results: 17 trials were included. Trials that assessed systemic antibiotic prophylaxis given for 4-14 days after admission showed a significant reduction in all cause mortality (risk ratio 0.54, 95% confidence interval 0.34 to 0.87, five trials). The corresponding number needed to treat was 8 (5 to 33), with a control event rate of 26%. Perioperative non-absorbable or topical antibiotics alone did not significantly affect mortality. There was a reduction in pneumonia with systemic prophylaxis and a reduction in wound infections with perioperative prophylaxis. Staphylococcus aureus infection or colonisation was reduced with anti-staphylococcal antibiotics. In three trials, resistance to the antibiotic used for prophylaxis significantly increased (rate ratio 2.84, 1.38 to 5.83). The overall methodological quality of the trials was poor.
Conclusions: Prophylaxis with systemic antibiotics has a beneficial effect in burns patients, but the methodological quality of the data is weak. As such prophylaxis is currently not recommended for patients with severe burns other than perioperatively, there is a need for randomised controlled trials to assess its use.