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J Pediatr. 2004 Mar;144(3):296-300.

Dexamethasone therapy in neonates treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.

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Departments of Pediatrics and Radiology, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Virginia 22908, USA.



To test the hypothesis that infants who received dexamethasone would have a shorter length of time on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Study design Infants placed on ECMO for respiratory failure were randomly assigned to receive either dexamethasone for 3 days or placebo. Chest radiographs were scored through the use of a validated standard scoring system to assess lung injury.


Thirty infants received dexamethasone and 29 received placebo. The median (25th%, 75th%) duration of time on ECMO was 143.5 (100, 313) hours in the dexamethasone group and 160 (111, 303) hours in the placebo group (not significant). Survival was 80% in the dexamethasone group and 83% in the placebo group. Radiographic lung injury scores (mean+/-SEM) were significantly improved in the dexamethasone group (10.5+/-0.6) versus placebo (12.3+/-0.5) on day 3 of ECMO (P=.013). Hypertension developed in 27 of the 30 infants receiving dexamethasone and 13 of the 29 infants in the placebo group during ECMO (P<.01).


Dexamethasone given during the first 3 days of ECMO results in significant improvement in lung injury scores by day 3 of ECMO but does not significantly decrease the duration of ECMO or improve survival. The preponderance of evidence would not support the use of dexamethasone in this setting.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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