Background: The benefit of corticosteroids in community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) remains controversial. We did a meta-analysis to include all the randomized controlled trials (RCTs) which used corticosteroids as adjunctive therapy, to examine the benefits and risks of corticosteroids in the treatment of CAP in adults.
Methods: Databases including Pubmed, EMBASE, the Cochrane controlled trials register, and Google Scholar were searched to find relevant trials. Randomized and quasi-randomized trials of corticosteroids treatment in adult patients with CAP were included. Effects on primary outcome (mortality) and secondary outcomes (adverse events) were accessed in this meta-analysis.
Results: Nine trials involving 1001 patients were included. Use of corticosteroids did not significantly reduce mortality (Peto odds ratio [OR] 0.62, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.37-1.04; P = 0.07). In the subgroup analysis by the severity, a survival benefit was found among severe CAP patients (Peto OR 0.26, 95% CI 0.11-0.64; P = 0.003). In subgroup analysis by duration of corticosteroids treatment, significant reduced mortality was found among patients with prolonged corticosteroids treatment (Peto OR 0.51, 95% CI 0.26-0.97; P = 0.04; I(2) = 37%). Corticosteroids increased the risk of hyperglycemia (Peto OR 2.64, 95% CI 1.68-4.15; P<0.0001), but without increasing the risk of gastroduodenal bleeding (Peto OR 1.67, 95% CI 0.41-6.80; P = 0.47) and superinfection (Peto OR 1.36, 95% CI 0.65-2.84; P = 0.41).
Conclusion: Results from this meta-analysis did not suggest a benefit for corticosteroids treatment in patients with CAP. However, the use of corticosteroids was associated with improved mortality in severe CAP. In addition, prolonged corticosteroids therapy suggested a beneficial effect on mortality. These results should be confirmed by future adequately powered randomized trials.