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Sao Paulo Med J. 2003 Mar 5;121(2):45-52. Epub 2003 Jul 14.

Antenatal treatment with corticosteroids for preterm neonates: impact on the incidence of respiratory distress syndrome and intra-hospital mortality.

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  • 1Departament of Pediatrics, Universidade Federal de São Paulo/Escola Paulista de Medicina, São Paulo, Brazil.



Although the benefits of antenatal corticosteroids have been widely demonstrated in other countries, there are few studies among Brazilian newborn infants.


To evaluate the effectiveness of antenatal corticosteroids on the incidence of respiratory distress syndrome and intra-hospital mortality among neonates with a gestational age of less than 34 weeks.




A tertiary-care hospital.


Neonates exposed to any dose of antenatal corticosteroids for fetal maturation up to 7 days before delivery, and newborns paired by sex, birth weight, gestational age and time of birth that were not exposed to antenatal corticosteroids. The sample obtained consisted of 205 exposed newborns, 205 non-exposed and 39 newborns exposed to antenatal corticosteroids for whom it was not possible to find an unexposed pair.


Analysis of maternal and newborn records.


The primary clinical outcomes for the two groups were compared: the incidence of respiratory distress syndrome and intra-hospital mortality; as well as secondary outcomes related to neonatal morbidity.


Antenatal corticosteroids reduced the occurrence of respiratory distress syndrome (OR: 0.33; 95% CI: 0.21-0.51) and the protective effect persisted when adjusted for weight, gestational age and the presence of asphyxia (adjusted OR: 0.27; 95% CI: 0.17-0.43). The protective effect could also be detected through the reduction in the need for and number of doses of exogenous surfactant utilized and the number of days of mechanical ventilation needed for the newborns exposed to antenatal corticosteroids. Their use also reduced the occurrence of intra-hospital deaths (OR: 0.51: 95% CI: 0.38-0.82). However, when adjusted for weight, gestational age, presence of prenatal asphyxia, respiratory distress syndrome, necrotizing enterocolitis and use of mechanical ventilation, the antenatal corticosteroids did not maintain the protective effect in relation to death. With regard to other outcomes, antenatal corticosteroids reduced the incidence of intraventricular hemorrhage grades III and IV (OR: 0.28; 95% CI: 0.10-0.77).


Antenatal corticosteroids were effective in the reduction of morbidity and mortality among premature newborns in the population studied, and therefore their use should be stimulated within our environment.

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