This review by Arthur et al was published on 20th October 2016. The plain language summary is shown below. Full details of the review can be found via this link.
Background. Ventilators are machines that breathe for patients. The ventilator tube goes into the mouth and through the windpipe. Sometimes there are bacteria on the ventilator tube that infect the patient’s lungs, leading to a disease called ventilator-associated pneumonia. Ventilator-associated pneumonia can cause significant harmful effects, and can sometimes lead to death. When treating people with ventilator-associated pneumonia, doctors must decide which antibiotic therapy to prescribe, usually without knowing the particular type of bacterial infection. This decision is important because inappropriate initial treatment may increase risk of harmful effects and longer hospital stays.
Search date We searched for studies to December 2015.
Study characteristics We looked at studies involving adults aged over 18 years who were treated in intensive care units for ventilator-associated pneumonia and needed antibiotic treatment. We analysed 12 studies with 3571 participants.
Key results All included studies looked at the use of one antibiotic treatment plan versus another, but these varied among studies. There was potential for bias because some studies did not report outcomes for all participants, and funding for many was provided by pharmaceutical companies and study authors were affiliated with these companies.
We used statistical techniques to evaluate our results. For single versus multiple antibiotics, we found no difference in rates of death or cure, or adverse events. For our comparison of combination therapies with optional adjunctives we were only able to analyse clinical cure for one the antibiotics Tigecycline and imipenem-cilastatin for which imipenem-cilastatin was found to have higher clinica cure. We also looked at carbapenem (antibiotics used to treat infections caused by multidrug-resistant bacteria) versus non-carbapenem treatment; we found no difference in death rate or adverse effects, but we found that carbapenems are associated with an increase in clinical cure.
Quality of evidence We assessed evidence quality as moderate for most outcomes, and very low for clinical cure when single-antibiotic treatment was compared with multiple antibiotic therapy. We also found that evidence quality was low for adverse events when carbapenem was compared with non-carbapenem treatment.
Conclusions We did not find differences between single and combination therapy, lending support to use of a single-antibiotic treatment plan for people with ventilator-associated pneumonia. This may not be applicable to all patients because studies did not identify patients who are at risk of exposure to harmful types of bacteria.
We could not evaluate the best single-antibiotic choice to treat people with ventilator-associated pneumonia because there were too few studies, but carbapenems may achieve better cure rates than other tested antibiotics.