Anti-inflammatories as adjunct treatment for cellulitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Laura Hamill, Gerben Keijzers, Scott Robertson, Chiara Ventre, Nuri Song, Paul Glasziou, Anna Mae Scott, Justin Clark, Krishan Yadav*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: Existing guideline recommendations suggest considering corticosteroids for adjunct treatment of cellulitis, but this is based on a single trial with low certainty of evidence. The objective was to determine if anti-inflammatory medication (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs], corticosteroids) as adjunct cellulitis treatment improves clinical response and cure.

METHODS: Systematic review and meta-analysis including randomized controlled trials of patients with cellulitis treated with antibiotics irrespective of age, gender, severity and setting, and an intervention of anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs or corticosteroids) vs. placebo or no intervention. Medline (PubMed), Embase (via Elsevier), and Cochrane CENTRAL were searched from inception to August 1, 2023. Data extraction was conducted independently in pairs. Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool 2. Data were pooled using a random effects model. Primary outcomes are time to clinical response and cure.

RESULTS: Five studies (n = 331) were included, all were adults. Three trials reported time to clinical response. There was a benefit with use of an oral NSAID as adjunct therapy at day 3 (risk ratio 1.81, 95%CI 1.42-2.31, I 2  = 0%). There was no difference between groups at day 5 (risk ratio 1.19, 95%CI 0.62-2.26), although heterogeneity was high (I 2  = 96%). Clinical cure was reported by three trials, and there was no difference between groups at all timepoints up to 22 days. Statistical heterogeneity was moderate to low. Adverse events (N = 3 trials) were infrequent.

CONCLUSIONS: For patients with cellulitis, the best available data suggest that oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as adjunct therapy to antibiotics may lead to improved early clinical response, although this is not sustained beyond 4 days. There is insufficient data to comment on the role of corticosteroids for clinical response. These results must be interpreted with caution due to the small number of included studies.

REGISTRATION: Open Science Framework: .

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Journal of Emergency Medicine
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 May 2024


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