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Pediatr Res. 2004 Nov;56(5):701-5. Epub 2004 Sep 15.

Effect of single and multiple courses of prenatal corticosteroids on 17-hydroxyprogesterone levels: implication for neonatal screening of congenital adrenal hyperplasia.

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Department of Pediatrics, University Hospital, 15 Rue Larrey, 49000 Angers, France.


Measurement of 17-hydroxyprogesterone (17-OHP) from filter-paper blood is widely used to screen for congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). However, in pregnancies with an expected preterm delivery, prenatal treatment with steroids to induce pulmonary maturation could suppress the fetal adrenals and interfere with this screening. In 160 infants who were born between 25 and 35 wk of gestation, we measured 17-OHP in filter-paper blood at 72-96 h and compared the values between those who had not received antenatal steroids (n=50) and those who had (n=110). A single course of steroids was two 12-mg injections of betamethasone given within a 24-h interval: 30 infants received a half single course, 45 received a full single course, and 35 received multiple courses. Results are expressed as medians (25th percentile; 75th percentile). Blood 17-OHP differed significantly among groups: 23.7 (14.2; 30.7) nmol/L, 26.1 (15.0; 50.1) nmol/L, 20.1 (13.8; 29.1) nmol/L, and 14.9 (9.5; 26.2) nmol/L (for, respectively, no steroid, half a single course, a full single course, and multiple courses; p <0.05, multiple comparisons with the Kruskal-Wallis test). However, only infants who were treated with multiple antenatal courses of steroids had lower blood 17-OHP than those who were untreated (p <0.05 with the Mann-Whitney U test). In multiple regression analysis, steroid treatment and intrauterine growth retardation were significant negative predictors of blood 17-OHP, whereas respiratory distress syndrome was a significant positive predictor (multiple R=0.50, p <0.001). Multiple courses of steroids in preterm infants decrease 17-OHP values by approximately 30% in filter-paper blood, thus raising the risk of false-negative results in screening programs for CAH.

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