Antifungal agents for preventing fungal infections in non-neutropenic critically ill and surgical patients: Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials

Elliott Geoffrey Playford, Angela C. Webster, Tania C. Sorrell, Jonathan C. Craig

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129 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: This study aims to systematically identify and summarize the effects of antifungal prophylaxis in non-neutropenic critically ill adult patients on all-cause mortality and the incidence of invasive fungal infections.

Methods: Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials in all languages comparing the prophylactic use of any antifungal agent or regimen with placebo, no antifungal or another antifungal agent or regimen in non-neutropenic critically ill adult patients. We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL, The Cochrane Library, Issue 3, 2005), MEDLINE (1966 to 2 September 2005) and EMBASE (1980 to week 36, 2005). We also hand-searched reference lists, abstracts of conference proceedings and scientific meetings (1998–2004) and contacted authors of included studies and pharmaceutical manufacturers. The primary outcomes assessed were all-cause mortality and proven invasive fungal infections. Two reviewers independently applied selection criteria, performed quality assessment and extracted data using an intention-to-treat approach. Data were synthesized using the random effects model and expressed as relative risk with 95% confidence intervals.

Results: Twelve unique trials (eight comparing fluconazole and four ketoconazole with no antifungal or a non-absorbable agent) involving 1606 randomized patients were included. For both outcomes of total mortality and invasive fungal infections, almost all trials of fluconazole and ketoconazole separately showed a non-significant risk reduction with prophylaxis. When combined, fluconazole/ketoconazole reduced total mortality by one-quarter (relative risk 0.76, 95% confidence interval 0.59–0.97) and invasive fungal infections by about one-half (relative risk 0.46, 95% confidence interval 0.31–0.68). No significant increase in the incidence of infection or colonization with the azole-resistant fungal pathogens Candida glabrata or Candida krusei was demonstrated, although the confidence intervals of the summary effect measures were wide. Adverse effects requiring treatment discontinuation were not more common amongst patients receiving prophylaxis. Results across all trials were homogeneous despite considerable heterogeneity in clinical and methodological characteristics.

Conclusions: Prophylaxis with fluconazole or ketoconazole in critically ill patients reduces invasive fungal infections by one-half and total mortality by one-quarter. Although no significant increase in azole-resistant Candida species associated with prophylaxis was demonstrated, trials were not powered to exclude such an effect. In patients at increased risk of invasive fungal infections, antifungal prophylaxis with fluconazole should be considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)628-638
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • mycoses
  • candidiasis
  • fungaemia
  • antifungals
  • Intensive care


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