Corticosteroids are an option in the treatment of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP). However, the benefits and adverse effects of corticosteroids, especially in severe CAP, have not been well assessed.
PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane library databases from inception to May 2015 were searched. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and cohort studies that evaluated use of corticosteroids in adult patients with CAP were included. The quality of outcomes was evaluated using Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation methodology. The Mantel-Haenszel method with random-effects modeling was used to calculate pooled relative risks (RRs) and 95% CIs.
Nine eligible RCTs (1,667 patients) and six cohort studies (4,095 patients) were identified. The mean corticosteroid dose and treatment duration were 30 mg/day methylprednisolone for 7 days. Corticosteroids did not have a statistically significant effect on mortality (RR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.43-1.21; evidence rank, low) in patients with CAP and patients with severe CAP (RCTs: RR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.43-1.21; evidence rank, low; cohort studies: RR, 1.00; 95% CI, 0.86-1.17 ). Corticosteroids treatment was associated with a decreased risk of ARDS (RR, 0.21; 95% CI, 0.08-0.59) and may reduce lengths of hospital and ICU stay, duration of IV antibiotic treatment, and time to clinical stability. Corticosteroids were not associated with increased rates of adverse events.
Short-term treatment with corticosteroids is safe and may reduce the risk of ARDS, shortening the length of the disease in patients with CAP.