Corticosteroids for tuberculous pleurisy


Background: Corticosteroids used in addition to antituberculous therapy have been reported to benefit people with tuberculous pleurisy. However, research findings are inconsistent, raising doubt as to whether such treatment is worthwhile. Concern also exists regarding the potential adverse effects of corticosteroids, especially in HIV-positive people. Objectives: To evaluate the effects of adding corticosteroids to drug regimens for tuberculous pleural effusion. Search strategy: In May 2007, we searched the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group Specialized Register, CENTRAL (The Cochrane Library 2007, Issue 2), MEDLINE, EMBASE, LILACS, Current Controlled Trials, and reference lists of articles. Selection criteria: Randomized and quasi-randomized controlled trials comparing any corticosteroid with no treatment, placebo, or other active treatment (both groups should receive the same antituberculous drug regimen) in people diagnosed with tuberculous pleurisy. Data collection and analysis: Two authors independently assessed trial methodological quality and extracted data. Data were analysed using relative risks (RR) and weighted mean difference (WMD) with 95% confidence intervals (CI). The fixed-effect model was applied in the absence of statistically significant heterogeneity. Main results: Six trials with 633 participants met the inclusion criteria; one trial included only HIV-positive people. Compared to control, corticosteroid use was associated with less residual pleural fluid at four weeks (RR 0.76, 95% CI 0.62 to 0.94; 394 participants, 3 trials) and reduced pleural thickening (RR 0.69, 95% CI 0.51 to 0.94; 309 participants, 4 trials). We found no evidence of an effect of corticosteroids on death from any cause (194 participants, 1 trial), respiratory function (191 participants, 2 trials), residual pleural fluid at eight weeks (399 participants, 4 trials), or pleural adhesions (123 participants, 2 trials). Although discontinuation of treatment due to adverse events was more frequent in participants receiving corticosteroids than placebo (RR 2.80, 95% CI 1.12 to 6.98; 586 participants, 6 trials), the effects were generally mild. The risk of Kaposi sarcoma may be increased in HIV-positive people receiving corticosteroids (RR 13.00, 95% CI 0.74 to 227.63; 194 participants, 1 trial). Authors’ conclusions: There are insufficient data to support evidence-based recommendations regarding the use of adjunctive corticosteroids in people with tuberculous pleurisy. Randomized controlled trials that are sufficiently powered to evaluate the effects of corticosteroids on both morbidity and mortality are needed. The effects of corticosteroids on HIV-related complications, such as Kaposi sarcoma, should be assessed in people co-infected with HIV.


Engel ME, Matchaba PT, Volmink J




  • Population(s)
    • General HIV+ population
  • Co-infections
    • Tuberculosis


Abstract/Full paper

Email 1 selected articles

Email 1 selected articles

Error! The email wasn't sent. Please try again.

Your email has been sent!