Prolonged vs Intermittent Infusions of β-Lactam Antibiotics in Adults With Sepsis or Septic Shock: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

JAMA. 2024 Jun 12:e249803. doi: 10.1001/jama.2024.9803. Online ahead of print.


Importance: There is uncertainty about whether prolonged infusions of β-lactam antibiotics improve clinically important outcomes in critically ill adults with sepsis or septic shock.

Objective: To determine whether prolonged β-lactam antibiotic infusions are associated with a reduced risk of death in critically ill adults with sepsis or septic shock compared with intermittent infusions.

Data sources: The primary search was conducted with MEDLINE (via PubMed), CINAHL, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), and from inception to May 2, 2024.

Study selection: Randomized clinical trials comparing prolonged (continuous or extended) and intermittent infusions of β-lactam antibiotics in critically ill adults with sepsis or septic shock.

Data extraction and synthesis: Data extraction and risk of bias were assessed independently by 2 reviewers. Certainty of evidence was evaluated with the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation approach. A bayesian framework was used as the primary analysis approach and a frequentist framework as the secondary approach.

Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was all-cause 90-day mortality. Secondary outcomes included intensive care unit (ICU) mortality and clinical cure.

Results: From 18 eligible randomized clinical trials that included 9108 critically ill adults with sepsis or septic shock (median age, 54 years; IQR, 48-57; 5961 men [65%]), 17 trials (9014 participants) contributed data to the primary outcome. The pooled estimated risk ratio for all-cause 90-day mortality for prolonged infusions of β-lactam antibiotics compared with intermittent infusions was 0.86 (95% credible interval, 0.72-0.98; I2 = 21.5%; high certainty), with a 99.1% posterior probability that prolonged infusions were associated with lower 90-day mortality. Prolonged infusion of β-lactam antibiotics was associated with a reduced risk of intensive care unit mortality (risk ratio, 0.84; 95% credible interval, 0.70-0.97; high certainty) and an increase in clinical cure (risk ratio, 1.16; 95% credible interval, 1.07-1.31; moderate certainty).

Conclusions and relevance: Among adults in the intensive care unit who had sepsis or septic shock, the use of prolonged β-lactam antibiotic infusions was associated with a reduced risk of 90-day mortality compared with intermittent infusions. The current evidence presents a high degree of certainty for clinicians to consider prolonged infusions as a standard of care in the management of sepsis and septic shock.

Trial registration: PROSPERO Identifier: CRD42023399434.