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Chest. 2003 May;123(5 Suppl):482S-9S.

Steroids for septic shock: back from the dead? (Con).

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  • 1Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University Health System, Medical College of Virginia Hospitals, Richmond 23298, USA.


The role of corticosteroid therapy in the management of septic shock has been debated for half a century. Results from large, well-designed, randomized clinical trials demonstrate no benefit, and perhaps harm, associated with short duration, high-dose methylprednisolone or dexamethasone administered at the onset of septic shock. Based on evidence of "relative adrenal insufficiency" and steroid-responsive adrenergic receptor desensitization in sepsis, administration of modest doses (200 to 300 mg/d) of hydrocortisone for 1 to 3 weeks has been investigated. A multicenter, placebo-controlled clinical trial demonstrated improved survival rates and faster cessation of vasopressors among patients with septic shock who have a poor response to corticotropin injection, consistent with relative adrenal insufficiency. However, concerns regarding a trend for higher mortality among corticotropin responders and the possibility that patients with true adrenal insufficiency may have been enrolled in this placebo-controlled trial, potentially skewing results, should be considered.

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