Role of Empiric Anti-Fungal Therapy in the Treatment of Perforated Peptic Ulcer Disease: Review of the Evidence and Future Directions

Surg Infect (Larchmt). 2019 Dec;20(8):593-600. doi: 10.1089/sur.2019.062. Epub 2019 Jun 12.


Background: Peptic ulcer disease (PUD) affects four million people worldwide. Perforated peptic ulcer (PPU) occurs in less than 15% of cases but is associated with significant morbidity and mortality rates. Administration of antibiotics is standard treatment for gastrointestinal perforations, including PPU. Although fungal growth is common in peritoneal fluid cultures from patients with PPU, current data suggest empiric anti-fungal therapy fails to improve outcomes. To examine the role of anti-fungal agents in the treatment of PPU, the Surgical Infection Society hosted an Update Symposium at its 37th Annual Meeting. Here, we provide a synopsis of the symposium's findings and a brief review of prospective and retrospective reports on the subject. Methods: A search of Pubmed/MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library was performed between January 1, 2000, and November 1, 2018, comparing outcomes of PPU following empiric anti-fungal treatment versus no anti-fungal therapy. We used the search terms "perforated peptic ulcer," "gastroduodenal ulcer," "anti-fungal," and "perforated" or "perforation." Results: There are no randomized clinical trials comparing outcomes specifically for patients with PPU treated with or without empiric anti-fungal therapy. We identified one randomized multi-center trial evaluating outcomes for patients with intra-abdominal perforations, including PPU, that were treated with or without empiric anti-fungal therapy. We identified one single-center prospective series and three additional retrospective studies comparing outcomes for patients with PPU treated with or without empiric anti-fungal therapy. Conclusion: The current evidence reviewed here does not demonstrate efficacy of anti-fungal agents in improving outcomes in patients with PPU. As such, we caution against the routine use of empiric anti-fungal agents in these patients. Further studies should help identify specific subpopulations of patients who might derive benefit from anti-fungal therapy and help define appropriate treatment regimens and durations that minimize the risk of resistance, adverse events, and cost.

Keywords: anti-fungal therapy; peptic ulcer disease; perforated peptic ulcer.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antifungal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Chemoprevention / methods*
  • Child
  • Congresses as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycoses / prevention & control*
  • Peptic Ulcer Perforation / complications*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Antifungal Agents