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S Afr Med J. 1999 Aug;89(8):865-70.

The use of dexamethasone in women with preterm premature rupture of membranes--a multicentre, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial. Dexiprom Study Group.

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  • 1University of Pretoria.



To assess whether administration of dexamethasone in women with preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) has an effect on the prevalence of maternal sepsis, neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), perinatal mortality and neonatal sepsis in a developing country.


Six public hospitals in South Africa that deal mainly with indigent women.


A multicentre, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial was performed on women with PPROM and fetuses of 28-34 weeks' gestation or clinically estimated fetal weight between 1,000 and 2,000 g if the gestational age was unknown. Women were randomised to receive either dexamethasone 24 mg intramuscularly or placebo in two divided doses 24 hours apart. All women received amoxycillin and metronidazole and were managed expectantly. Hexoprenaline was administered if contractions occurred within the first 24 hours after admission to the trial.


The maternal outcome measures were clinical chorio-amnionitis and postpartum sepsis. The outcome measures for infants were perinatal death, RDS, mechanical ventilation, necrotising enterocolitis, and neonatal infection within 72 hours.


One hundred and two women who delivered 105 babies were randomised to the dexamethasone group and 102 women who delivered 103 babies, to the placebo group. The groups were well balanced with regard to clinical features. There was a trend towards fewer perinatal deaths in the dexamethasone group: 4 compared with 10 (P = 0.16, odds ratio 0.37, 95% confidence intervals 0.09-1.34). A subanalysis of mothers who delivered more than 24 hours after admission to the study and their infants revealed a significant reduction in perinatal deaths; 1 death in the dexamethasone group and 7 in the placebo group, P = 0.047 (Fisher's exact test). No woman in either group developed severe sepsis, and the incidence of sepsis in the women did not differ significantly. Eleven infants in each group developed sepsis.


This is the first randomised trial in women with PPROM to compare the effects of the use of corticosteroids with placebo, where all women received prophylactic antibiotics concomitantly with the corticosteroids. A trend towards an improved perinatal outcome was demonstrated in the women who received dexamethasone. There was no increased risk of infection in the women or their infants where dexamethasone was administered. Administration of corticosteroids to women with PPROM has more advantages than disadvantages in developing countries.

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