Cardiac events after macrolides or fluoroquinolones in patients hospitalized for community-acquired pneumonia: post-hoc analysis of a cluster-randomized trial

BMC Infect Dis. 2019 Jan 7;19(1):17. doi: 10.1186/s12879-018-3630-7.


Background: Guidelines recommend macrolides and fluoroquinolones in patients hospitalized with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP), but their use has been associated with cardiac events. We quantified associations between macrolide and fluoroquinolone use and cardiac events in patients hospitalized with CAP in non-ICU wards.

Methods: This was a post-hoc analysis of a cluster-randomized trial as a cohort study; including patients with a working diagnosis of CAP admitted to non-ICU wards without a cardiac event on admission. We calculated cause-specific hazard ratio's (HR's) for effects of time-dependent macrolide and fluoroquinolone exposure as compared to beta-lactam monotherapy on cardiac events, defined as new or worsening heart failure, arrhythmia, or myocardial ischemia during hospitalization.

Results: Cardiac events occurred in 146 (6.9%) of 2107 patients, including heart failure (n = 101, 4.8%), arrhythmia (n = 53, 2.5%), and myocardial ischemia (n = 14, 0.7%). These occurred in 11 of 207 (5.3%), 18 of 250 (7.2%), and 31 of 277 (11.2%) patients exposed to azithromycin, clarithromycin, and erythromycin for at least one day, and in 9 of 234 (3.8%), 5 of 194 (2.6%), and 23 of 566 (4.1%) exposed to ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, and moxifloxacin, respectively. HR's for erythromycin, compared to beta-lactam monotherapy, on any cardiac event and heart failure were 1.60 (95% CI 1.09;2.36) and 1.89 (95% CI 1.22;2.91), respectively. HR's for levofloxacin and moxifloxacin, compared to beta-lactam monotherapy, on any cardiac event were 0.40 (95% CI 0.18;0.87)and 0.56 (95% CI 0.36;0.87), respectively. Findings remained consistent after adjustment for confounders and/or in a sensitivity analysis of radiologically confirmed CAP (n = 1604, 76.1%).

Conclusions: Among patients with CAP hospitalized to non-ICU wards, erythromycin use was associated with a 68% increased risk of hospital-acquired cardiac events, mainly heart failure. Levofloxacin and moxifloxacin were associated with a lower risk of heart failure. Although our study does not fully exclude confounding bias, findings remained largely unchanged in crude, adjusted, and sensitivity analyses. These findings may caution the use of erythromycin as empirical therapy in these patients.

Trial registration: The original trial was retrospectively registered under Identifier NCT01660204 on August 8th, 2012.

Keywords: Antibiotics; Cardiac events; Community-acquired pneumonia; Complications; Fluoroquinolones; Macrolides.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cohort Studies
  • Community-Acquired Infections / drug therapy*
  • Community-Acquired Infections / microbiology
  • Female
  • Fluoroquinolones / adverse effects*
  • Fluoroquinolones / therapeutic use
  • Heart Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Macrolides / adverse effects*
  • Macrolides / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial / drug therapy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • beta-Lactams / therapeutic use


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Fluoroquinolones
  • Macrolides
  • beta-Lactams

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