Antibiotic prophylaxis for elective hysterectomy


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We included in this review 37 RCTs, which performed 20 comparisons of various antibiotics versus placebo and versus one another (6079 women). The quality of the evidence ranged from very low to moderate. The main limitations of study findings were risk of bias due to poor reporting of methods, imprecision due to small samples and low event rates, and inadequate reporting of adverse effects.

Any antibiotic versus placebo

Vaginal hysterectomy

Moderate-quality evidence shows that women who received antibiotic prophylaxis had fewer total postoperative infections (risk ratio (RR) 0.28, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.19 to 0.40; five RCTs, N = 610; I2 = 85%), less urinary tract infection (UTI) (RR 0.58, 95% CI 0.43 to 0.77; eight RCTs, N = 1790; I2 = 44%), fewer pelvic infections (RR 0.28, 95% CI 0.20 to 0.39; 11 RCTs, N = 2010; I2 = 57%), and fewer postoperative fevers (RR 0.43, 95% CI 0.34 to 0.54; nine RCTs, N = 1879; I2 = 48%) than women who did not receive such prophylaxis. This suggests that antibiotic prophylaxis reduces the average risk of postoperative infection from about 34% to 7% to 14%. Whether this treatment has led to differences in rates of other serious infection remains unclear (RR 0.20, 95% CI 0.01 to 4.10; one RCT, N = 146; very low-quality evidence).

Data were insufficient for comparison of adverse effects.

Abdominal hysterectomy

Women who received antibiotic prophylaxis of any class had fewer total postoperative infections (RR 0.16, 95% CI 0.06 to 0.38; one RCT, N = 345; low-quality evidence), abdominal wound infections (RR 0.64, 95% CI 0.45 to 0.92; 11 RCTs, N = 2434; I2 = 0%; moderate-quality evidence), UTIs (RR 0.39, 95% CI 0.29 to 0.51; 11 RCTs, N = 2547; I2 = 26%; moderate-quality evidence), pelvic infections (RR 0.50, 95% CI 0.35 to 0.71; 11 RCTs, N = 1883; I2 = 11%; moderate-quality evidence), and postoperative fevers (RR 0.60, 95% CI 0.51 to 0.70; 11 RCTs, N = 2581; I2 = 51%; moderate-quality evidence) than women who did not receive prophylaxis, suggesting that antibiotic prophylaxis reduces the average risk of postoperative infection from about 16% to 1% to 6%. Whether this treatment has led to differences in rates of other serious infection remains unclear (RR 0.44, 95% CI 0.12 to 1.69; two RCTs, N = 476; I2 = 29%; very low-quality evidence).

It is unclear whether rates of adverse effects differed between groups (RR 1.80, 95% CI 0.62 to 5.18; two RCTs, N = 430; I2 = 0%; very low-quality evidence).

Head-to-head comparisons between antibiotics

Vaginal hysterectomy

We identified four comparisons: cephalosporin versus penicillin (two RCTs, N = 470), cephalosporin versus tetracycline (one RCT, N = 51), antiprotozoal versus lincosamide (one RCT, N = 80), and cephalosporin versus antiprotozoal (one RCT, N = 78). Data show no evidence of differences between groups for any of the primary outcomes, except that fewer cases of total postoperative infection and postoperative fever were reported in women who received cephalosporin than in those who received antiprotozoal.

Only one comparison (cephalosporin vs penicillin; two RCTs, N = 451) yielded data on adverse effects and showed no differences between groups.

Abdominal hysterectomy

We identified only one comparison: cephalosporin versus penicillin (N = 220). Data show no evidence of differences between groups for any of the primary outcomes. Adverse effects were not reported.

Combined antibiotics versus single antibiotics

Vaginal hysterectomy

We identified three comparisons: cephalosporin plus antiprotozoal versus cephalosporin (one RCT, N = 78), cephalosporin plus antiprotozoal versus antiprotozoal (one RCT, N = 78), and penicillin plus antiprotozoal versus penicillin (one RCT, N = 230). Data were unavailable for most outcomes, including adverse effects. We found no evidence of differences between groups, except that fewer women receiving cephalosporin with antiprotozoal received a diagnosis of total postoperative infection, UTI, or postoperative fever compared with women receiving antiprotozoal.

Abdominal hysterectomy

We identified one comparison (penicillin plus antiprotozoal vs penicillin only; one RCT, N = 230). Whether differences between groups occurred was unclear. Adverse effects were not reported.

Comparison of cephalosporins in different regimens

Single small trials addressed dose comparisons and provided no data for most outcomes, including adverse effects. Whether differences between groups occurred was unclear. No trials compared route of administration.

The quality of evidence for all head-to-head and dose comparisons was very low owing to very serious imprecision and serious risk of bias related to poor reporting of methods.