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J Paediatr Child Health. 2000 Apr;36(2):101-7.

Postnatal corticosteroids in preterm infants: systematic review of effects on mortality and motor function.

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The Division of Newborn Services, the Royal Women's Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.



Postnatal corticosteroid therapy has been proved in randomized controlled trials to reduce ventilator dependence and the rate of chronic lung disease in preterm infants with few serious short-term side effects. However, there are other consequences that might follow postnatal corticosteroid therapy that are more important, including mortality or cerebral palsy.


To review the evidence from reported randomized controlled trials on the effects of postnatal corticosteroid on long-term mortality and motor dysfunction, including cerebral palsy.


The methods involved a meta-analysis of reported randomized controlled trials, following guidelines of the Cochrane Collaboration, including calculation of event rate differences (ERD) and 95% confidence intervals (CI).


The mortality rate difference was non-significant both statistically and clinically (ERD - 0.1% favouring corticosteroids, 95% CI -2.9% to 2.8%). There were no subgroups in which a beneficial effect of postnatal corticosteroids on survival could be demonstrated. The rate of motor dysfunction in survivors was significantly higher in survivors from the postnatal corticosteroid group (ERD 11.9% favouring controls, 95% CI 4.6% to 19.2%). The rate of survival, free of motor dysfunction, was significantly lower in the postnatal corticosteroid group (ERD 7.8% favouring controls, 95% CI 0.5% to 15.1%).


Although postnatal corticosteroids have short-term benefits, they do not increase the survival rate, and they may cause motor dysfunction in survivors. A large-scale, placebo-controlled randomized trial, with survival free of sensorineural impairments and disabilities as the major endpoint, is urgently needed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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