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Eur J Pediatr. 2001 Mar;160(3):150-3.

Steroids in full term infants with respiratory failure and pulmonary hypertension due to meconium aspiration syndrome.

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Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) due to meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS), has a high morbidity and mortality especially in centres with limited access to extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation or nitric oxide therapy. In such a setting, we conducted a pilot study to evaluate the effect of dexamethasone on severe respiratory failure with PPHN due to MAS with a view to exploring possible justification for randomised controlled trials in similar patients. We prospectively managed a consecutive case series of 14 infants over a 3-year period with the above mentioned diagnosis, who were ventilated and with an oxygenation index >25. Dexamethasone was commenced in a dose of 0.5 mg/kg per day and given for up to a maximum of 9 days in a reducing schedule. Differences between time points were analysed using analysis of variance for repeated measures. The mean age of commencing dexamethasone was 79.9 h. There was a rapid, significant improvement (P < 0.05) in the respiratory status in 13 of these infants after commencing dexamethasone, allowing weaning from the ventilator and eventual extubation at a mean age of 8.7 days. One infant died. Two infants had infective episodes. Conclusion. Dexamethasone, if started early in infants with respiratory failure and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn due to meconium aspiration syndrome may be effective in improving gas exchange, and possibly avoiding extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation. A randomised controlled trial of using dexamethasone early in similar patients and setting is warranted.

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