Colchicine for pericarditis

Samer Alabed, Juan B Cabello, Greg J Irving, Mohammed Qintar, Amanda Burls

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Pericarditis is the inflammation of the pericardium, the membranous sac surrounding the heart. Recurrent pericarditis is the most common complication of acute pericarditis, causing severe and disabling chest pains. Recurrent pericarditis affects one in three patients with acute pericarditis within the first 18 months. Colchicine has been suggested to be beneficial in preventing recurrent pericarditis.

OBJECTIVES: To review all randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that assess the effects of colchicine alone or combined, compared to any other intervention to prevent further recurrences of pericarditis, in people with acute or recurrent pericarditis.

SEARCH METHODS: We searched the following bibliographic databases on 4 August 2014: Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL, Issue 7 of 12, 2014 on The Cochrane Library), MEDLINE (OVID, 1946 to July week 4, 2014), EMBASE (OVID, 1947 to 2014 week 31), and the Conference Proceedings Citation Index - Science on Web of Science (Thomson Reuters) 1990 to 1 Aug 2014. We did not apply any language or time restrictions.

SELECTION CRITERIA: RCTs of people with acute or recurrent pericarditis who are receiving colchicine compared to any other treatment, in order to prevent recurrences.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors independently selected trials for inclusion, extracted data and assessed the risk of bias. The first primary outcome was the time to recurrence, measured by calculating the hazard ratios (HRs). The second primary outcome was the adverse effects of colchicine. Secondary outcomes were the rate of recurrences at 6, 12 and 18 months, and symptom relief.

MAIN RESULTS: We included four RCTs, involving 564 participants in this review. We compared the effects of colchicine in addition to a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen, aspirin or indomethacin to the effects of the NSAID alone. Two comparable trials studied the effects of colchicine in 204 participants with recurrent pericarditis and two trials studied 360 people with acute pericarditis. All trials had a moderate quality for the primary outcomes. We identified two on-going trials; one of these trials examines acute pericarditis and the other assesses recurrent pericarditis.There was moderate quality evidence that colchicine reduces episodes of pericarditis in people with recurrent pericarditis over 18 months follow-up (HR 0.37; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.24 to 0.58). It is expected that at 18 months, the number needed to treat (NNT) is 4. In people with acute pericarditis, there was moderate quality evidence that colchicine reduces recurrence (HR 0.40; 95% CI 0.27 to 0.61) at 18 months follow-up. Colchicine led to a greater chance of symptom relief at 72 hours (risk ratio (RR) 1.4; 95% CI 1.26 to 1.56; low quality evidence). Adverse effects were mainly gastrointestinal and included abdominal pain and diarrhoea. The pooled RR for adverse events was 1.26 (95% CI 0.75 to 2.12). While the number of people experiencing adverse effects was higher in the colchicine than the control groups (9% versus 7%), the quality of evidence was low owing to imprecision, and there was no statistically significant difference between the treatment groups (P = 0.42). There was moderate quality evidence that treatment with colchicine led to more people stopping treatment due to adverse events (RR 1.87; 95% CI 1.02 to 3.41).

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Colchicine, as adjunctive therapy to NSAIDs, is effective in reducing the number of pericarditis recurrences in patients with recurrent pericarditis or acute pericarditis. However, evidence is based on a limited number of small trials. Patients with multiple resistant recurrences were not represented in any published or on-going trials, and it is these patients that are in the most need for treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)CD010652
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2014


  • Acute Disease
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal/adverse effects
  • Aspirin/therapeutic use
  • Colchicine/adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Ibuprofen/therapeutic use
  • Indomethacin/therapeutic use
  • Pericarditis/drug therapy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Recurrence


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