Drug Safety

, Volume 36, Issue 9, pp 709–721 | Cite as

Tendon Injury and Fluoroquinolone Use: A Systematic Review

  • Anne L. StephensonEmail author
  • Wei Wu
  • Daniel Cortes
  • Paula A. Rochon
Systematic Review



Fluoroquinolone antibiotics are commonly used to treat infections and are prescribed by general practitioners, medical specialists and surgeons. Tendon injury has been associated with the use of these medications but the risk associated with newer fluoroquinolones has not been established.


The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the evidence from observational studies to determine the strength of the association between fluoroquinolone use and tendinopathy, and to identify risk factors for this complication.


We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Collaboration from inception through May 2013 to identify observational studies focused on tendon injury and fluoroquinolones. Studies with original data were selected for inclusion following the PRISMA guidelines. Of the 560 abstracts screened, 16 relevant studies were independently rated by three authors (WW, AS, DC) using the Newcastle-Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale, and assigned a quality score out of 9. High-quality studies (i.e. scored 4.5 or higher) are summarized in detail in this article. Data were independently extracted by two authors (WW, AS).


Overall, 16 studies were included in our study. Eight were deemed to be of high quality and five specifically evaluated Achilles tendon rupture. In addition, three studies examined Achilles tendinitis, and three included tendon disorders (including any tendon rupture) as an outcome. Results from these studies suggest that individuals exposed to fluoroquinolones are at increased risk for Achilles tendon rupture, particularly within the first month following exposure to the drug (odds ratios ranged from 1.1 to 7.1). One study showed an increased risk of tendon rupture in those over 60 years of age. Five studies stated that individuals taking fluoroquinolones and oral corticosteroids are at increased risk for tendon injury compared with those taking fluoroquinolones alone. Four studies examined the differential effect of a limited number of fluoroquinolones. Ofloxacin had the highest risk of tendon injury in three of the studies.


Included studies are observational in nature and rely on self-report, which may lead to misclassification or underestimation of tendon injury.


Observational studies showed an increased risk of tendon injury, including tendon rupture and tendinitis, with exposure to fluoroquinolone antibiotic therapy. Although this complication appears to be rare, concomitant corticosteroids increase the risk for tendon injury, which varies depending on the fluoroquinolone used.


Fluoroquinolones Ofloxacin Levofloxacin Moxifloxacin Norfloxacin 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study was funded by Team Grant OTG-88591 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The authors are grateful for the work of Corinne Holubowich and Pamela Richards, Information Specialists at the Health Sciences Library, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s Hospital and who conducted the literature searches for this review.

Author Contributions

Dr. Stephenson had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data, the accuracy of the data analysis, and had final responsibility for the decision to submit for publication. Study concept and design, analysis and interpretation of data, drafting of the manuscript, and critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content was carried out by Drs Stephenson and Rochon, Mr. Wu and Mr. Cortes; acquisition of data was undertaken by Drs Stephenson, Wu and Cortes; statistical analysis was carried out by Drs Stephenson and Wu; funding was obtained by Dr Rochon; and study supervision was carried out by Dr Rochon.

Role of the funding source

The study sponsor did not participate in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; or decision to submit the paper for publication.

Conflicts of interest

Drs Stephenson and Rochon, Mr. Wu and Mr. Cortes do not have any conflicts of interest to declare.

Supplementary material

40264_2013_89_MOESM1_ESM.doc (28 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 28 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne L. Stephenson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Wei Wu
    • 2
  • Daniel Cortes
    • 3
  • Paula A. Rochon
    • 2
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Medicine and Keenan Research Centre in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, University of TorontoSt. Michael’s HospitalTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Women’s College Research InstituteWomen’s College HospitalTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Department of Pharmacy and Keenan Research Centre in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge InstituteSt. Michael’s HospitalTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Institute for Clinical Evaluative SciencesTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Department of Medicine and Institute of Health Policy Management and Evaluation, University of TorontoTorontoCanada

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