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Arch Pediatr. 2010 Oct;17(10):1480-7. doi: 10.1016/j.arcped.2010.07.013. Epub 2010 Sep 22.

[The use of postnatal corticosteroid therapy in premature infants to prevent or treat bronchopulmonary dysplasia: current situation and recommendations].

[Article in French]

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  • 1Service de médecine néonatale de Port-Royal, centre hospitalier Cochin-St-Vincent-de-Paul, 123, boulevard de Port-Royal, 75014 Paris, France.


In the last few years, several studies related to the benefit/risk balance of postnatal corticosteroids administered to premature neonates for prevention or treatment of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) have been published. These data encourage caution, given the risk of long-term adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes. In the meantime, the clinical profile of BPD has been altered based on the progress made in the pre- and postnatal care of premature infants. In 2006, a survey conducted in France in neonatal centers showed that corticosteroids were still frequently used (57% of the centers) following various protocols in very preterm-born infants for respiratory impairment. To promote safer practices and rational use of corticosteroids in the prevention and treatment of BPD in preterm-born neonates, we reviewed the available data in order to establish recommendations. Systemic administration of corticosteroids for prevention or treatment of BPD: (i) should not be used during the first 4 days of life; (ii) is not indicated in the first 3 weeks of life nor (iii) in extubated infants (nasal ventilation or oxygen therapy). The systemic administration of steroids can only be considered after the first 3 weeks of life in very preterm-born ventilator-dependent infants to facilitate extubation (or prevent reintubation related to the severity of BPD). Postnatal dexamethasone administration studied in several randomized clinical trials was shown to have an unfavorable benefit/risk profile, mainly because of the long-term adverse neurocognitive outcomes. Very few studies have been conducted with betamethasone in the postnatal period. According to sparse data, this drug might be as efficacious as dexamethasone, but its long-term risk profile is unknown. It should be noted that following prenatal administration, the benefit/risk profile of betamethasone is better than that of dexamethasone, especially with regard to neurocognitive development. Intravenous hydrocortisone administered at an early stage for the prevention of BPD is being evaluated and should not be administered in this indication, except within clinical trials approved by the ethics committee. No other corticosteroids have been evaluated in the postnatal period in respiratory indications. In conclusion, in the situations described above for which systemic corticosteroids could be justified, the use of betamethasone (or hydrocortisone) appears to be better. As usual, the lowest possible dose of corticosteroids should be administered for the shortest possible duration. The betamethasone-equivalent dose of 0.125 mg/kg/day for 3 days is deemed adequate. If inhaled, corticosteroid therapy may facilitate extubation. Neither its efficacy in respiratory diseases nor its long-term risk profile has been so far established.

Copyright © 2010. Published by Elsevier SAS.. All rights reserved.

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