Background: Necrotizing soft tissue infections (NSTIs) are rapidly spreading, life-threatening infections that require emergent surgical intervention with immediate antibiotic initiation. However, there is no consensus regarding duration of antibiotic therapy after source control. We hypothesized that a short course of antibiotic therapy is as effective as a long course of antibiotic therapy after final debridement for NSTI. Methods: A systematic review of the literature was performed using PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane Library from inception to November 2022. Observational studies comparing short (≤7 days) versus long (>7 days) antibiotic duration for NSTI were included. Primary outcome was mortality and secondary outcomes included limb amputation and Clostridium difficile infection (CDI). Cumulative analysis was performed with Fisher exact test. Meta-analysis was performed using a fixed effects model and heterogeneity was assessed using Higgins I2. Results: A total of 622 titles were screened and four observational studies evaluating 532 patients met inclusion criteria. Mean age was 52 years, 67% were male, 61% had Fournier gangrene. There was no difference in mortality when comparing short to long duration antibiotic agents on both cumulative analysis (5.6% vs. 4.0%; p = 0.51) and meta-analysis (relative risk, 0.9; 95% confidence interval, 0.8-1.0; I2 0; p = 0.19). There was no significant difference in rates of limb amputation (11% vs. 8.5%; p = 0.50) or CDI (20.8% vs. 13.3%; p = 0.14). Conclusions: Short duration antibiotic therapy may be as effective as longer duration antibiotic therapy for NSTI after source control. Further high-quality data such as randomized clinical trials are required to create evidence-based guidelines.
Keywords: acute care surgery; antibiotic duration; necrotizing soft tissue infection.