Fluoroquinolone antibiotics: increased risk of ruptures or tears in the aorta in certain patients

Dec 21, 2018

AUDIENCE: Health Professional, Infectious Disease, Cardiology, Patient

ISSUE: FDA review found that fluoroquinolone antibiotics can increase the occurrence of rare but serious events of ruptures or tears in the main artery of the body, called the aorta.  These tears, called aortic dissections, or ruptures of an aortic aneurysm can lead to dangerous bleeding or even death.  They can occur with fluoroquinolones for systemic use given by mouth or through an injection.

BACKGROUND: Fluoroquinolone antibiotics are approved to treat certain bacterial infections and have been used for more than 30 years.  They work by killing or stopping the growth of bacteria that can cause illness.  Without treatment, some infections can spread and lead to serious health problems (see List of Currently Available FDA-Approved Systemic Fluoroquinolones).

RECOMMENDATION: 
Healthcare professionals should:

  • Avoid prescribing fluoroquinolone antibiotics to patients who have an aortic aneurysm or are at risk for an aortic aneurysm, such as patients with peripheral atherosclerotic vascular diseases, hypertension, certain genetic conditions such as Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and elderly patients. 
  • Prescribe fluoroquinolones to these patients only when no other treatment options are available. 
  • Advise all patients to seek immediate medical treatment for any symptoms associated with aortic aneurysm. 
  • Stop fluoroquinolone treatment immediately if a patient reports side effects suggestive of aortic aneurysm or dissection.

Patients should:

  • Seek medical attention immediately by going to an emergency room or calling 911 if you experience sudden, severe, and constant pain in the stomach, chest or back. 
  • Be aware that symptoms of an aortic aneurysm often do not show up until the aneurysm becomes large or bursts, so report any unusual side effects from taking fluoroquinolones to your health care professional immediately. 
  • Inform your health professional before starting an antibiotic prescription,  if you have a history of aneurysms, blockages or hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, or genetic conditions such as Marfan syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. 
  • Not stop the antibiotic without first talking to your health care professional.

Healthcare professionals and patients are encouraged to report adverse events or side effects related to the use of these products to the FDA's MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program:

  • Complete and submit the report Online: www.fda.gov/MedWatch/report
  • Download form or call 1-800-332-1088 to request a reporting form, then complete and return to the address on the pre-addressed form, or submit by fax to 1-800-FDA-0178.

Source: News Release
US Food and Drug Administration
December 20, 2018