Corticosteroids in Community-Acquired Bacterial Pneumonia: a Systematic Review, Pairwise and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis

J Gen Intern Med. 2023 Aug;38(11):2593-2606. doi: 10.1007/s11606-023-08203-6. Epub 2023 Apr 19.


Introduction: International guidelines provide heterogenous guidance on use of corticosteroids for community-acquired pneumonia (CAP).

Methods: We performed a systematic review of randomized controlled trials examining corticosteroids in hospitalized adult patients with suspected or probable CAP. We performed a pairwise and dose-response meta-analysis using the restricted maximum likelihood (REML) heterogeneity estimator. We assessed the certainty of the evidence using GRADE methodology and the credibility of subgroups using the ICEMAN tool.

Results: We identified 18 eligible studies that included 4661 patients. Corticosteroids probably reduce mortality in more severe CAP (RR 0.62 [95% CI 0.45 to 0.85]; moderate certainty) with possibly no effect in less severe CAP (RR 1.08 [95% CI 0.83 to 1.42]; low certainty). We found a non-linear dose-response relationship between corticosteroids and mortality, suggesting an optimal dose of approximately 6 mg of dexamethasone (or equivalent) for a duration of therapy of 7 days (RR 0.44 [95% 0.30 to 0.66]). Corticosteroids probably reduce the risk of requiring invasive mechanical ventilation (RR 0.56 [95% CI 0.42 to 74] and probably reduce intensive care unit (ICU) admission (RR 0.65 [95% CI 0.43 to 0.97]) (both moderate certainty). Corticosteroids may reduce the duration of hospitalization and ICU stay (both low certainty). Corticosteroids may increase the risk of hyperglycemia (RR 1.76 [95% CI 1.46 to 2.14]) (low certainty).

Conclusion: Moderate certainty evidence indicates that corticosteroids reduce mortality in patients with more severe CAP, the need for invasive mechanical ventilation, and ICU admission.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones* / therapeutic use
  • Adult
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial* / drug therapy
  • Respiration, Artificial


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones