Cilostazol for intermittent claudication

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2021 Jun 30;6(6):CD003748. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003748.pub5.


Background: Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) affects between 4% and 12% of people aged 55 to 70 years, and 20% of people over 70 years. A common complaint is intermittent claudication (exercise-induced lower limb pain relieved by rest). These patients have a three- to six-fold increase in cardiovascular mortality. Cilostazol is a drug licensed for the use of improving claudication distance and, if shown to reduce cardiovascular risk, could offer additional clinical benefits. This is an update of the review first published in 2007.

Objectives: To determine the effect of cilostazol on initial and absolute claudication distances, mortality and vascular events in patients with stable intermittent claudication.

Search methods: The Cochrane Vascular Information Specialist searched the Cochrane Vascular Specialised Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, and AMED databases, and the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform and trials registries, on 9 November 2020.

Selection criteria: We considered double-blind, randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of cilostazol versus placebo, or versus other drugs used to improve claudication distance in patients with stable intermittent claudication.

Data collection and analysis: Two authors independently assessed trials for selection and independently extracted data. Disagreements were resolved by discussion. We assessed the risk of bias with the Cochrane risk of bias tool. Certainty of the evidence was evaluated using GRADE. For dichotomous outcomes, we used odds ratios (ORs) with corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs) and for continuous outcomes we used mean differences (MDs) and 95% CIs. We pooled data using a fixed-effect model, or a random-effects model when heterogeneity was identified. Primary outcomes were initial claudication distance (ICD) and quality of life (QoL). Secondary outcomes were absolute claudication distance (ACD), revascularisation, amputation, adverse events and cardiovascular events.

Main results: We included 16 double-blind, RCTs (3972 participants) comparing cilostazol with placebo, of which five studies also compared cilostazol with pentoxifylline. Treatment duration ranged from six to 26 weeks. All participants had intermittent claudication secondary to PAD. Cilostazol dose ranged from 100 mg to 300 mg; pentoxifylline dose ranged from 800 mg to 1200 mg. The certainty of the evidence was downgraded by one level for all studies because publication bias was strongly suspected. Other reasons for downgrading were imprecision, inconsistency and selective reporting. Cilostazol versus placebo Participants taking cilostazol had a higher ICD compared with those taking placebo (MD 26.49 metres; 95% CI 18.93 to 34.05; 1722 participants; six studies; low-certainty evidence). We reported QoL measures descriptively due to insufficient statistical detail within the studies to combine the results; there was a possible indication in improvement of QoL in the cilostazol treatment groups (low-certainty evidence). Participants taking cilostazol had a higher ACD compared with those taking placebo (39.57 metres; 95% CI 21.80 to 57.33; 2360 participants; eight studies; very-low certainty evidence). The most commonly reported adverse events were headache, diarrhoea, abnormal stools, dizziness, pain and palpitations. Participants taking cilostazol had an increased odds of experiencing headache compared to participants taking placebo (OR 2.83; 95% CI 2.26 to 3.55; 2584 participants; eight studies; moderate-certainty evidence).Very few studies reported on other outcomes so conclusions on revascularisation, amputation, or cardiovascular events could not be made. Cilostazol versus pentoxifylline There was no difference detected between cilostazol and pentoxifylline for improving walking distance, both in terms of ICD (MD 20.0 metres, 95% CI -2.57 to 42.57; 417 participants; one study; low-certainty evidence); and ACD (MD 13.4 metres, 95% CI -43.50 to 70.36; 866 participants; two studies; very low-certainty evidence). One study reported on QoL; the study authors reported no difference in QoL between the treatment groups (very low-certainty evidence). No study reported on revascularisation, amputation or cardiovascular events. Cilostazol participants had an increased odds of experiencing headache compared with participants taking pentoxifylline at 24 weeks (OR 2.20, 95% CI 1.16 to 4.17; 982 participants; two studies; low-certainty evidence).

Authors' conclusions: Cilostazol has been shown to improve walking distance in people with intermittent claudication. However, participants taking cilostazol had higher odds of experiencing headache. There is insufficient evidence about the effectiveness of cilostazol for serious events such as amputation, revascularisation, and cardiovascular events. Despite the importance of QoL to patients, meta-analysis could not be undertaken because of differences in measures used and reporting. Very limited data indicated no difference between cilostazol and pentoxifylline for improving walking distance and data were too limited for any conclusions on other outcomes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Bias
  • Cilostazol / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Intermittent Claudication / drug therapy*
  • Intermittent Claudication / etiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / prevention & control
  • Pentoxifylline / therapeutic use
  • Peripheral Vascular Diseases / complications
  • Peripheral Vascular Diseases / drug therapy
  • Placebos / therapeutic use
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Stroke / prevention & control
  • Tetrazoles / adverse effects
  • Tetrazoles / therapeutic use*
  • Walking


  • Placebos
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors
  • Tetrazoles
  • Cilostazol
  • Pentoxifylline