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Early (up to seven days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants

Doyle LW, Ehrenkranz RA, Halliday HL
Published Online: 
13 May 2014

Corticosteroids can reduce lung inflammation in newborns with chronic lung disease, but there are major adverse effects of the drugs. Chronic lung disease is a major problem for newborn babies in neonatal intensive care units. Persistent inflammation of the lungs is the most likely cause. Corticosteroid drugs have been used to either prevent or treat chronic lung disease because of their strong anti-inflammatory effects. This review of trials found that the benefits of giving corticosteroids to infants up to seven days of age may not outweigh the known adverse effects. The beneficial effects were a shorter time on the ventilator and less chronic lung disease, but the adverse effects included high blood pressure, bleeding from the stomach or bowel, perforation of the bowel, an excess of glucose in the bloodstream and an increased risk of cerebral palsy at follow-up. Use of early corticosteroids, especially dexamethasone, to treat or prevent chronic lung disease should be curtailed until more research has been performed.