Positive impact of [18F]FDG-PET/CT on mortality in patients with Staphylococcus aureus bacteremia explained by immortal time bias

Thomas W van der Vaart*, Jan M Prins, Cornelis H van Werkhoven, Thijs Ten Doesschate, Robin Soetekouw, Gitte van Twillert, Jan Veenstra, Bjorn L Herpers, Wouter Rozemeijer, Rogier R Jansen, Marc J M Bonten, Jan T M van der Meer

*Corresponding author for this work

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BACKGROUND: Several studies have suggested that in patients with Staphylococcus aureus bacteremia (SAB) [18F] fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography/computed tomography ([18F]FDG-PET/CT) improves outcome. However, these studies often ignored possible immortal time bias. METHODS: Prospective multicenter cohort study in 2 university and 5 non-university hospitals, including all patients with SAB. [18F]FDG-PET/CT was performed on clinical indication as part of usual care. Primary outcome was 90-day all-cause mortality. Effect of [18F]FDG-PET/CT was modeled with a Cox proportional hazards model using [18F]FDG-PET/CT as a time-varying variable and corrected for confounders for mortality (age, Charlson score, positive follow-up cultures, septic shock, and endocarditis). Secondary outcome was 90-day infection-related mortality (assessed by adjudication committee) using the same analysis. In a subgroup-analysis, we determined the effect of [18F]FDG-PET/CT in patients with high risk of metastatic infection. RESULTS: Of 476 patients, 178 (37%) underwent [18F]FDG-PET/CT. Day-90 all-cause mortality was 31% (147 patients), and infection-related mortality was 17% (83 patients). The confounder adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) for all-cause mortality was 0.50 (95% confidence interval [CI]: .34-.74) in patients that underwent [18F]FDG-PET/CT. Adjustment for immortal time bias changed the aHR to 1.00 (95% CI .68-1.48). Likewise, after correction for immortal time bias, [18F]FDG-PET/CT had no effect on infection-related mortality (cause specific aHR 1.30 [95% CI .77-2.21]), on all-cause mortality in patients with high-risk SAB (aHR 1.07 (95% CI .63-1.83) or on infection-related mortality in high-risk SAB (aHR for 1.24 [95% CI .67-2.28]). CONCLUSIONS: After adjustment for immortal time bias [18F]FDG-PET/CT was not associated with day-90 all-cause or infection-related mortality in patients with SAB.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-15
Number of pages7
JournalClinical infectious diseases : an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America
Issue number1
Early online date4 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023


  • Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia
  • immortal time bias
  • mortality
  • [18F]FDG-PET/CT


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