To answer the following question: In patients with primary autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED), (population) what impact do disease-modifying antirheumatic agents (DMARDs) (intervention) when compared with no treatment or corticosteroids (comparison) have on auditory and vestibular outcomes (outcome)?
Systematic review and meta-analysis.
According to PRISMA guidelines, PubMed, Scopus, CINAHL, and Cochrane Library databases were searched from inception to March 10, 2022.
Studies of patients receiving DMARDs for the treatment of AIED were selected for review. Case reports, phase I/II trials, studies of patients with secondary AIED, and studies of AIED patients receiving solely corticosteroids were excluded.
Primary outcomes were pure-tone audiometry and speech discrimination scores at baseline and after DMARD treatment. Secondary outcomes were rates of subjective audiovestibular complaints and rates of adverse reactions. No objective vestibular outcomes underwent meta-analysis.
Mean differences were calculated using RevMan 5.4. Heterogeneity was assessed with the Q test and I2 statistic. Pooled prevalence rates of audiovestibular symptoms were expressed as a percentage with 95% confidence intervals.
Ten studies with a total of 187 patients were included. Treatments included methotrexate, etanercept, azathioprine, anakinra, cyclophosphamide, rituximab, and infliximab. Mean treatment duration was 10.8 ± 22.2 months and mean follow-up was 13.7 ± 8.1 months. The pure-tone audiometry and speech discrimination scores mean differences between baseline and post-DMARD were −2.1 [−4.1, −0.1] dB and 13.9 [8.5, 19.4] %, respectively. Seven studies reported 38 adverse events, four of which were classified as serious.
DMARDs showed statistically significant improvement in auditory outcomes, as well as subjective symptoms, with relatively low rates of adverse events. They warrant further exploration to better compare with corticosteroids.