Introduction: infection after stroke is associated with unfavorable outcome. Randomized controlled studies did not show benefit of preventive antibiotics in stroke but lacked power for subgroup analyses. Aim of this study is to assess whether preventive antibiotic therapy after stroke improves functional outcome for specific patient groups in an individual patient data meta-analysis.
Patients and methods: we searched MEDLINE (1946-May 7th 2021), Embase (1947- May 7th 2021), CENTRAL (Sept 17th 2021), trial registries, cross-checked references and contacted researchers for randomized controlled trials of preventive antibiotic therapy versus placebo or standard care in ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke patients.
Meta-analysis was performed by a one-step and two-step approach. Primary outcome was functional outcome adjusted for age and stroke severity. Secondary outcomes were infections and mortality.
Results: 4197 patients from nine trials were included. Preventive antibiotic therapy was not associated with a shift in functional outcome (mRS) at 3 months (OR1.13, 95%CI 0.98-1.31) or unfavorable functional outcome (mRS 3-6) (OR0.85, 95%CI 0.60-1.19). Preventive antibiotics did not improve functional outcome in predefined subgroups (age, stroke severity, timing and type of antibiotic therapy, pneumonia prediction scores, dysphagia, type of stroke and type of trial). Preventive antibiotics reduced infections (276/2066 (13.4%) in the preventive antibiotic group vs. 417/2059 (20.3%) in the control group, OR 0.60, 95% CI 0.51-0.71, p< 0.001), but not pneumonia (191/2066 (9.2%) in the preventive antibiotic group vs. 205/2061 (9.9%) in the control group (OR 0.92
(0.75-1.14), p= 0.450).
Discussion and conclusion: preventive antibiotic therapy did not benefit any subgroup of patients with acute stroke and currently cannot be recommended.