Aims: Our aim was to summarize the available literature on the effect of short- versus long-course antibiotic therapy on acute cholangitis. Methods: A systematic review was performed according to the PRISMA Statement. We searched three databases for papers discussing the length of ABT in acute cholangitis. Long and short therapy groups were defined based on the most recent guideline available at the time of publication of the articles. Primary outcomes were the rate of recurrent cholangitis and mortality; secondary outcomes included length of hospitalization and the duration of fever after ERCP. Data were extracted on these outcomes and on general characteristics. A narrative synthesis was then provided based on collected data. Results: Out of 692 articles produced by our search, four met our inclusion and exclusion criteria. These contained 205 acute cholangitis patients, with 137 and 68 patients receiving short and long antibiotic therapy, respectively. No significant difference was observed in any of the studies on the outcomes of mortality and duration of fever after ERCP between the two groups. One out of four studies found the rate of recurrent cholangitis to be significantly lower in the short antibiotic therapy group (0.0% vs. 13.3%, p = 0.036). Length of hospitalization was only compared in the same retrospective article, where it was found to be significantly shorter in the short-term antibiotic therapy group (with a median of 14 vs. 17.5 days, p < 0.001). Conclusions: Our review suggests short-course antibiotic therapy is non-inferior to long-course treatment; however, several limitations underline the need for well-designed randomized trials.
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