Antibiotics / anti-inflammatories for reducing acute inflammatory episodes in lymphoedema of the limbs.
BACKGROUND: Lymphoedema is a chronic and progressive condition and current debate revolves around the best course of management for infective/inflammatory episodes.
OBJECTIVES: To determine whether antibiotic/anti-inflammatory drugs given prophylactically reduce the number and severity of infective/inflammatory episodes in patients with lymphoedema.
SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Breast Cancer Group register in September 2003, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library, Issue 4, 2003), CINAHL, MEDLINE, PASCAL, SIGLE, UnCover, reference lists produced by The British Lymphology Society, the National Research Register (NRR) and the International Society of Lymphology congress proceedings.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Types of studies considered for review were randomised controlled trials testing an antibiotic or anti-inflammatory drug against placebo (with or without physical therapies). DATA
COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Eligibility for inclusion was confirmed by two blinded reviewers who screened the papers independently using a checklist of criteria relating to the randomisation and blinding of a trial. Both reviewers extracted data from the eligible studies using a data extraction form.
MAIN RESULTS: Overall, four studies (364 randomised patients) were included. Two of these studied the effects of intensive physical treatment plus selenium or placebo in preventing AIE, and two studied the effects of Ivermectin, Diethylcarbamazine (DEC) (anti-filarial agents) and penicillin as prophylactic treatment for adeno lymphangitis(ADL) versus placebo.Both selenium trials reported no inflammatory episodes during the trial period in the treated group but one case of infection in the two placebo groups respectively during the first three weeks of each trial. Seven additional cases of infection in trial one and 14 cases in trial two required treatment in the three month follow up period.One anti filarial trial reported a total of 127 ADL episodes for all groups during the treatment year (compared with 684 episodes reported for the same participants during the pre-treatment year). Another 228 ADL episodes were reported during the trial follow-up year but no significant differences were found between the three groups. No apparent link was found between the grade of oedema and the frequency of ADL episodes. However, there was a significant link between increased episodes and the rainy season. In the penicillin group the mean number of inflammatory episodes was reduced from 4.6 to 0.5 after treatment and increased to 1.9 at the end of the follow-up year.
REVIEWERS' CONCLUSIONS: The effectiveness of selenium in preventing AIE in lymphoedema remains inconclusive in the absence of properly conducted randomised controlled trials. Anti-filarials (DEC and Ivermectin) do not appear to reduce ADL episodes in filarial lymphoedema. Foot care may be important in reducing ADL episodes, and penicillin appears to contribute to a significant reduction in ADL, when combined with foot-care. It seems reasonable to emphasise the importance of foot-care to patients and practitioners in preventing infection and this may also apply to care of the arm in women who develop lymphoedema following breast cancer treatment. However, properly conducted trials are needed to demonstrate any efficacy of these interventions.
PMID: 15106193 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]