The Surviving Sepsis Campaign guidelines recommend goal-directed therapy (GDT) for the early resuscitation of patients with sepsis. However, the findings of the ProCESS (Protocolized Care for Early Septic Shock) trial showed no benefit from GDT for reducing mortality rates in early septic shock. We performed a meta-analysis to integrate these findings with existing literature on this topic and evaluate the effect of GDT on mortality due to sepsis.
We searched the PubMed, Embase and CENTRAL (Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials) databases and reference lists of extracted articles. Randomized controlled trials comparing GDT with standard therapy or usual care in patients with sepsis were included. The prespecified primary outcome was overall mortality.
In total, 13 trials involving 2,525 adult patients were included. GDT significantly reduced overall mortality in the random-effects model (relative risk (RR), 0.83; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.71 to 0.96; P =0.01; I2 = 56%). Predefined subgroup analysis according to the timing of GDT for resuscitation suggested that a mortality benefit was seen only in the subgroup of early GDT within the first 6 hours (seven trials; RR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.67 to 0.89; P =0.0004; I2 = 40%), but not in the subgroup with late or unclear timing of GDT (six trials; RR, 0.92; 95% CI, 0.69 to 1.24; P =0.59; I2 = 56%). GDT was significantly associated with the use of dobutamine (five trials; RR, 2.71; 95% CI, 1.20 to 6.10; P =0.02).
The results of the present meta-analysis suggest that GDT significantly reduces overall mortality in patients with sepsis, especially when initiated early. However, owing to the variable quality of the studies, strong and definitive recommendations cannot be made.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13054-014-0570-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.