Antibiotics to reduce post-tonsillectomy morbidity
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 AprDhiwakar M, Clement W, Supriya M, McKerrow W.
BACKGROUND: Tonsillectomy continues to be one of the most common surgical procedures performed in children and adults. Despite improvements in surgical and anaesthetic techniques, postoperative morbidity, mainly in the form of pain, remains a significant clinical problem. Postoperative bacterial infection of the tonsillar fossa has been proposed as an important factor causing pain and associated morbidity, and some studies have found a reduction in morbid outcomes following the administration of perioperative antibiotics.
OBJECTIVES: To determine whether perioperative antibiotics reduce pain and other morbid outcomes following tonsillectomy.
SEARCH STRATEGY: Cochrane ENT Group Trials Register, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library, Issue 1 2007), MEDLINE (1950 to 2007) and EMBASE (1974 to 2007) were searched. The date of the last search was March 2007.
SELECTION CRITERIA: All randomised controlled trials examining the impact of perioperative administration of systemic antibiotics on post-tonsillectomy morbidity in children or adults.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two authors independently collected data. Primary outcomes were pain, consumption of analgesia and secondary haemorrhage (defined as significant if patient re-admitted, transfused blood products or returned to theatre, and total if any documented haemorrhage). Secondary outcomes were fever, time taken to resume normal diet and activities and adverse events. Where possible, summary measures were generated using random-effects models.
MAIN RESULTS: Nine trials met the eligibility criteria. Most did not find a significant reduction in pain with antibiotics. Similarly, antibiotics were not shown to be effective in reducing the need for analgesics. Antibiotics were not associated with a reduction in significant secondary haemorrhage rates (Relative Risk (RR) 0.49, 95% CI 0.08 to 3.11, P = 0.45) or total secondary haemorrhage rates (RR 0.92, 95% CI 0.45 to 1.87, P = 0.81). With regard to secondary outcomes, antibiotics reduced the proportion of subjects with fever (RR 0.63, 95% CI 0.46 to 0.85, P = 0.002).
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: The present review suggests that there is little or no evidence that antibiotics reduce the main morbid outcomes following tonsillectomy (i.e. pain, the need for analgesia or secondary haemorrhage rates). They do however appear to reduce fever. Some important methodological shortcomings exist in the included trials which are likely to have produced bias favouring antibiotics. We therefore advocate caution when prescribing antibiotics routinely to all patients undergoing tonsillectomy. Whether a subgroup of patients who might benefit from selective administration of antibiotics exists is unknown and needs to be explored in future trials.