Home > Health & Research > Health Education Campaigns & Programs > Cochrane Neonatal Review > Late (> 7 days) postnatal corticosteroids for chronic lung disease in preterm infants

Late (> 7 days) postnatal corticosteroids for chronic lung disease in preterm infants

Skip sharing on social media links
Share this:

Authors

Lex W Doyle1, Richard A Ehrenkranz2, Henry L Halliday3

Background - Methods - Results - Characteristics of Included Studies - References - Data Tables and Graphs


1Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia [top]
2Department of Pediatrics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA [top]
3Honorary Professor of Child Health, Queen's University (Retired), Belfast, UK [top]

Citation example: Doyle LW, Ehrenkranz RA, Halliday HL. Late (> 7 days) postnatal corticosteroids for chronic lung disease in preterm infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 5. Art. No.: CD001145. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001145.pub3.

Contact person

Lex W Doyle

Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
The University of Melbourne
Parkville
Victoria
3052
Australia

E-mail: lwd@unimelb.edu.au

Dates

Assessed as Up-to-date: 18 February 2014
Date of Search: 22 August 2013
Next Stage Expected: 18 February 2016
Protocol First Published: Issue 3, 1998
Review First Published: Issue 3, 1998
Last Citation Issue: Issue 5, 2014

What's new

Date / Event Description
08 January 2014
New citation: conclusions not changed

Added reference for ongoing randomised controlled trial of hydrocortisone in infants with postnatal ages of 7 to 14 days.

06 September 2013
Updated

Searches updated 22 August 2013.

History

Date / Event Description
07 August 2013
Updated

This review updates the existing review 'Late (> 7 days) postnatal corticosteroids for chronic lung disease in preterm infants'.

The short-term benefits and side effects of postnatal corticosteroids are confirmed. Data from long-term neurodevelopmental follow-up are now available for 15 studies; small, non-significant increases in cerebral palsy or major neurosensory disability were offset by small, non-significant reductions in mortality. Hence there was little effect of postnatal corticosteroids on the combined outcomes of death with either cerebral palsy or major neurosensory disability.

07 October 2008
Amended

This review combines and updates the existing reviews of 'Delayed (> 3 weeks) postnatal corticosteroids for chronic lung disease in preterm infants' and 'Moderately early (7-14 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants' published in The Cochrane Library, Issue 3, 2003.

The short-term benefits and side effects of postnatal corticosteroids are confirmed. Data on long-term neurodevelopmental follow-up are now available for 12 studies; small, non-significant increases in cerebral palsy or major neurosensory disability were offset by small, non-significant reductions in mortality. Hence there was little effect of postnatal corticosteroids on the combined outcomes of death with either cerebral palsy or major neurosensory disability.

07 October 2008
New citation: conclusions not changed

Substantive update.

01 April 2008
Amended

Converted to new review format.

11 November 2002
New citation: conclusions changed

Substantive amendment.

11 November 2002
Updated

The review updates the existing review of 'Delayed (> 3 weeks) postnatal corticosteroids for chronic lung disease in preterm infants' published in The Cochrane Library, Issue 2, 2001.

Additional long-term neurodevelopmental follow-up data have been included for Harkavy 1989 (investigators provided unpublished data) and Ohlsson 1992 (data obtained from MSc thesis). With the addition of these follow-up data, the previously reported non-significant trend associating delayed steroid treatment with increased risk of cerebral palsy is somewhat less marked.

Abstract

Background

Many preterm infants who survive go on to develop chronic lung disease. This is probably due to persistent inflammation in the lungs. Corticosteroids have powerful anti-inflammatory effects and have been used to treat established chronic lung disease. However, it is unclear whether any beneficial effects outweigh the adverse effects of these drugs.

Objectives

To determine the relative benefits and adverse effects associated with late (> 7 days) postnatal systemic corticosteroid treatment compared with control (placebo or nothing) in the preterm infant with evolving or established chronic lung disease.

Search methods

We sought randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of postnatal corticosteroid therapy from the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL 2013, Issue 8), MEDLINE (1966 through August 2013), handsearching paediatric and perinatal journals, and by examining previous review articles and information received from practising neonatologists. When possible, we contacted authors of all studies to confirm details of reported follow-up studies or to obtain any information about long-term follow-up where none had been reported.

Selection criteria

We selected RCTs of postnatal corticosteroid treatment initiated after seven days after birth in preterm infants with evolving or established chronic lung disease for this review.

Data collection and analysis

We extracted and analysed data regarding clinical outcomes including mortality, chronic lung disease, death or chronic lung disease, failure to extubate, complications in the primary hospitalisation, and long-term health outcomes

Results

Twenty-one RCTs enrolling a total of 1424 participants were eligible for this review. All were randomised controlled trials, but the methods for random allocation were not always clear. Allocation concealment, blinding of the intervention and blinding of the outcome assessments were mostly satisfactory. Late steroid treatment was associated with a reduction in neonatal mortality (at 28 days), but not mortality at discharge or latest reported age. Benefits of delayed steroid treatment included reductions in failure to extubate by three, seven or 28 days, chronic lung disease at both 28 days and 36 weeks' postmenstrual age, need for late rescue treatment with dexamethasone, discharge on home oxygen, and death or chronic lung disease at both 28 days and 36 weeks' postmenstrual age. There was a trend towards an increase in risk of infection and gastrointestinal bleeding, but not necrotising enterocolitis. Short-term adverse affects included hyperglycaemia, glycosuria and hypertension. There was an increase in severe retinopathy of prematurity, but no significant increase in blindness. There was a trend towards a reduction in severe intraventricular haemorrhage, but only 247 infants were enrolled in five studies reporting this outcome. The trends to an increase in cerebral palsy or abnormal neurological examination were partly offset by a trend in the opposite direction in death before late follow-up. The combined rate of death or cerebral palsy was not significantly different between steroid and control groups. Major neurosensory disability, and the combined rate of death or major neurosensory disability, were not significantly different between steroid and control groups. There were no substantial differences between groups for other outcomes in later childhood, including respiratory health or function, blood pressure or growth, although there were fewer with a clinically important reduction in the forced expired volume in one second (FEV1) on respiratory function testing.

Authors' conclusions

The benefits of late corticosteroid therapy may not outweigh actual or potential adverse effects. Although there continues to be concern about an increased incidence of adverse neurological outcomes in infants treated with postnatal steroids, this review of postnatal corticosteroid treatment for chronic lung disease initiated after seven days of age suggests that late therapy may reduce neonatal mortality without significantly increasing the risk of adverse long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes. However, the methodological quality of the studies determining the long-term outcome is limited in some cases; in some studies the surviving children have only been assessed before school age, when some important neurological outcomes cannot be determined with certainty, and no study was sufficiently powered to detect increased rates of important adverse long-term neurosensory outcomes. Given the evidence of both benefits and harms of treatment, and the limitations of the evidence at present, it appears prudent to reserve the use of late corticosteroids for infants who cannot be weaned from mechanical ventilation and to minimise the dose and duration of any course of treatment.

Plain language summary

Late (after seven days) postnatal corticosteroids for chronic lung disease in preterm infants

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, and is associated with both a higher death rate and worse long-term outcomes in survivors. Persistent inflammation of the lungs is the most likely cause of chronic lung disease. Corticosteroid drugs have strong anti-inflammatory effects and so have been used either to prevent or treat chronic lung disease, particularly in babies who cannot be weaned from assisted ventilation.

This review of trials found that giving corticosteroids to infants at least seven days old produces short-term benefits in reducing the need for assisted ventilation and the rate of chronic lung disease, perhaps also reducing death in the first 28 days of life. However, high doses in particular are associated with short-term side effects such as bleeding from the stomach or bowel, higher blood pressure and difficulty tolerating glucose. In contrast with early use of corticosteroids in the first week of life, there is little evidence of long-term complications; however, it is not certain that there are no long-term problems. It seems wise to limit the use of late corticosteroids to those babies who cannot be weaned from assisted ventilation and to minimise the dose and duration of any course of treatment.

[top]

Background

Description of the condition

Surfactant therapy has improved the outcome of preterm infants with respiratory distress syndrome, but the risk of chronic lung disease or bronchopulmonary dysplasia has been only modestly reduced (Egberts 1997). More infants with chronic lung disease are being cared for in neonatal units and their management is both time-consuming and costly. Chronic lung disease describes injury and maldevelopment of the lung that follows preterm birth and is a major problem in neonatal intensive care units. Persistent inflammation in the lungs is the most likely underlying pathogenesis.

Description of the intervention

Postnatal corticosteroid treatment has been shown to have some acute effects on lung function in infants with established chronic lung disease, especially those that are ventilator-dependent (Mammel 1983; CDTG 1991). Corticosteroids may be given either parenterally or enterally. There has been concern that the benefits of steroids might not outweigh the adverse effects, which include hypertension, hyperglycaemia, intestinal perforation and extreme catabolism (Anonymous 1991; Ng 1993). Animal studies have also raised concerns about adverse effects on the central nervous system of corticosteroids given perinatally to immature offspring (Gramsbergen 1998; Flagel 2002).

How the intervention might work

Corticosteroids might either prevent or treat chronic lung disease because of their potent anti-inflammatory effects.

Why it is important to do this review

Multiple systematic reviews of the use of postnatal corticosteroids in infants with or at risk of chronic lung disease have been published (Halliday 1997; Bhuta 1998; Halliday 1999; Arias-Camison 1999; Tarnow-Mordi 1999; Doyle 2000; Doyle 2010a; Doyle 2010b; Doyle 2010c). Other systematic reviews have addressed the use of early (Shah 2007b) or late (Onland 2012) inhaled corticosteroids in the prevention or treatment of chronic lung disease as well as comparisons between the use of systemic steroids and inhaled steroids (Shah 2003; Shah 2007a).

There are three existing Cochrane reviews, which review separately the trials in which postnatal corticosteroids were started within 96 hours of birth (Doyle 2014), 7 to 14 days after birth (Halliday 2003a), or predominantly after three weeks (New Reference). The current systematic review looks at late (> 7 days) corticosteroid treatment in infants with evolving or established chronic lung disease. It is an update of previous Cochrane reviews (New Reference).

Objectives

To determine the relative benefits and adverse effects associated with late (> 7 days) postnatal systemic corticosteroid treatment compared with control (placebo or nothing) in the preterm infant with evolving or established chronic lung disease.

[top]

Methods

Criteria for considering studies for this review

Types of studies

Randomised controlled trials of late postnatal corticosteroid treatment for preterm infants with evolving or established chronic lung disease that reported clinically important outcome variables.

Types of participants

Preterm infants with evolving or established chronic lung disease, defined as oxygen-dependent, ventilator-dependent, or both, with or without radiographic changes of bronchopulmonary dysplasia.

Types of interventions

Treatment with systemic corticosteroids (dexamethasone or hydrocortisone) versus control (placebo or nothing).

Types of outcome measures

Primary outcomes
  • Mortality
  • Chronic lung disease (including at 28 days, at 36 weeks' postmenstrual age and at 36 weeks' postmenstrual age in survivors)
  • Death or chronic lung disease (at 28 days and 36 weeks' postmenstrual age)
  • Long-term outcomes (including blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy and major neurosensory disability)
Secondary outcomes
  • Failure to extubate
  • Late rescue with corticosteroids (all infants and in survivors)
  • Need for home oxygen therapy
  • Complications during the primary hospitalisation (including infection, hyperglycaemia, hypertension, pulmonary air leak, patent ductus arteriosus, severe intraventricular haemorrhage, periventricular leukomalacia, necrotising enterocolitis, gastrointestinal bleeding, intestinal perforation and severe retinopathy of prematurity)

Search methods for identification of studies

We sought randomised controlled trials of postnatal corticosteroid therapy from the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE (1966 through August 2013), EMBASE, CINAHL, ClinicalTrials.gov, Controlled-Trials.com External Web Site Policy, handsearching paediatric and perinatal journals, and by examining previous review articles and information received from practising neonatologists. We searched MEDLINE using the terms adrenal cortex hormones or dexamethasone or betamethasone or hydrocortisone or steroids or corticosteroids and limits randomised controlled trials, human, all infant: birth to 23 months. Where possible, we contacted authors of all studies to confirm details of reported follow-up studies or to obtain any information about long-term follow-up where none had been reported.

Data collection and analysis

We used the methods of the Cochrane Neonatal Group for data collection and analysis.

Selection of studies

We included all randomised and quasi-randomised controlled trials that fulfilled the selection criteria described in the previous section. The authors independently reviewed the results of the updated search and selected studies for inclusion. We resolved any disagreement by discussion.

Data extraction and management

For each included trial we sought information regarding the method of randomisation, blinding, stratification and whether the trial was single or multi-centred. Information on the trial participants included birth weight, gestational age and gender. We analysed information on the following clinical outcomes: mortality, chronic lung disease (including chronic lung disease at 28 days, chronic lung disease at 36 weeks' postmenstrual age, chronic lung disease at 36 weeks' postmenstrual age in survivors, late rescue with corticosteroids (all infants and in survivors) and need for home oxygen therapy) and death or chronic lung disease (at 28 days and 36 weeks' postmenstrual age). Secondary outcomes included failure to extubate, complications in the primary hospitalisation (including infection, hyperglycaemia, glycosuria, hypertension, echodensities on ultrasound scan of brain, necrotising enterocolitis, gastrointestinal bleeding, gastrointestinal perforation and severe retinopathy of prematurity, and long-term outcomes (including blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy and major neurosensory disability, as well as longer-term outcomes of cognitive delay, respiratory health and function, blood pressure and growth).

For each study, one review author entered final data into RevMan 5 (RevMan 2012); a second review author then checked for accuracy. We resolved discrepancies through discussion or by involving a third assessor. 

We attempted to contact authors of the original reports to provide further details when information regarding any of the above was unclear.

Assessment of risk of bias in included studies

We used the standard methods of the Cochrane Neonatal Group for assessing the methodological quality of the studies. The authors independently assessed the risk of bias for each study using the criteria outlined in the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions (Higgins 2011). We resolved any disagreement by discussion or by involving a third assessor. 

We assessed the methodological quality of the studies using the following criteria.

Sequence generation (checking for possible selection bias)

For each included study, we categorised the method used to generate the allocation sequence as:

  • low risk (any truly random process, e.g. random number table; computer random number generator);
  • high risk (any non-random process, e.g. odd or even date of birth; hospital or clinic record number);
  • unclear risk.
Allocation concealment (checking for possible selection bias)

For each included study, we categorised the method used to conceal the allocation sequence as:

  • low risk (e.g. telephone or central randomisation; consecutively numbered, sealed, opaque envelopes);
  • high risk (open random allocation; unsealed or non-opaque envelopes; alternation; date of birth);
  • unclear risk.
Blinding (checking for possible performance bias)

For each included study, we categorised the methods used to blind study participants and personnel from knowledge of which intervention a participant received. We assessed blinding separately for different outcomes or classes of outcomes. We categorised the methods as:

  • low risk, high risk or unclear risk for participants;
  • low risk, high risk or unclear risk for personnel;
  • low risk, high risk or unclear risk for outcome assessors.
Incomplete outcome data (checking for possible attrition bias through withdrawals, dropouts, protocol deviations)

For each included study and for each outcome, we described the completeness of data including attrition and exclusions from the analysis. We noted whether attrition and exclusions were reported, the numbers included in the analysis at each stage (compared with the total randomised participants), reasons for attrition or exclusion where reported, and whether missing data were balanced across groups or were related to outcomes. Where sufficient information was reported or supplied by the trial authors, we re-included missing data in the analyses. We categorised the methods as:

  • low risk (< 20% missing data);
  • high risk (greater than/or equal to 20% missing data);
  • unclear risk.
Selective reporting bias

For each included study, we described how we investigated the possibility of selective outcome reporting bias and what we found. We assessed the methods as:

  • low risk (where it is clear that all of the study's pre-specified outcomes and all expected outcomes of interest to the review have been reported);
  • high risk (where not all the study's pre-specified outcomes have been reported; one or more reported primary outcomes were not pre-specified; outcomes of interest are reported incompletely and so cannot be used; study fails to include results of a key outcome that would have been expected to have been reported);
  • unclear risk.
Other sources of bias

For each included study, we described any important concerns we had about other possible sources of bias (for example, whether there was a potential source of bias related to the specific study design or whether the trial was stopped early due to some data-dependent process). We assessed whether each study was free of other problems that could put it at risk of bias as:

  • low risk;
  • high risk;
  • unclear risk.

Measures of treatment effect

We used the standard methods of the Cochrane Neonatal Group to analyse data.

We performed statistical analyses using RevMan 5. We analysed dichotomous data using risk ratio (RR), risk difference (RD) and the number needed to treat to benefit (NNTB) or number needed to treat to harm (NNTH). We reported the 95% confidence interval (CI) for all estimates.

We analysed continuous data using the mean difference (MD) or the standardised mean difference (SMD) to combine trials that measured the same outcome but used different methods.

Unit of analysis issues

For clinical outcomes such as episodes of sepsis, we analysed the data as proportion of neonates having one or more episodes.

Dealing with missing data

For included studies, we noted levels of attrition. Where we had concern regarding the impact of including studies with high levels of missing data in the overall assessment of treatment effect, we planned to explore this concern using sensitivity analysis.

All outcomes analyses were on an intention-to-treat basis, i.e. we included all participants randomised to each group in the analyses. The denominator for each outcome in each trial was the number randomised minus any participants whose outcomes were known to be missing.

Assessment of heterogeneity

We examined heterogeneity between trials by inspecting the forest plots and quantifying the impact of heterogeneity using the I² statistic. If noted, we planned to explore the possible causes of statistical heterogeneity using pre-specified subgroup analysis (for example, differences in study quality, participants, intervention regimens or outcome assessments).

Assessment of reporting biases

We assessed possible publication bias and other biases using symmetry/asymmetry of funnel plots.

For included trials that were recently performed (and therefore prospectively registered), we explored possible selective reporting of study outcomes by comparing the primary and secondary outcomes in the reports with the primary and secondary outcomes proposed at trial registration, using the websites ClinicalTrials.gov and Controlled-Trials.com External Web Site Policy. If such discrepancies were found, we planned to contact the primary investigators to obtain missing outcome data on outcomes pre-specified at trial registration.

Data synthesis

Where we judged meta-analysis to be appropriate, we carried out the analysis using RevMan 5, supplied by The Cochrane Collaboration. We used the Mantel-Haenszel method for estimates of typical risk ratio and risk difference. We analysed continuous measures using the inverse variance method, and computed either mean differences or standardised mean differences. 

We used the fixed-effect model for all meta-analyses.

Subgroup analysis and investigation of heterogeneity

We included subgroup analyses by the type of corticosteroid used (dexamethasone or hydrocortisone) where there were sufficient numbers of trials to make such subgroup analyses meaningful.

Sensitivity analysis

We planned sensitivity analyses for situations where this might affect the interpretation of significant results (for example, where there is risk of bias associated with the quality of some of the included trials or missing outcome data). We thought none were necessary in this review.

[top]

Results

Description of studies

Results of the search

Having screened 521 potential references, 21 randomised controlled trials recruiting 1424 infants qualified for inclusion in this review. These trials enrolled preterm infants who were oxygen or ventilator-dependent (or both) beyond seven days of age. Dexamethasone was typically used in an initial dose of 0.5 to 1.0 mg/kg/day with an initial duration of therapy varying between three days and up to six weeks. There is one new study where the corticosteroid was solely hydrocortisone (Parikh 2013). Details are given below and in the Characteristics of included studies table.

Excluded trials are discussed below and in the Characteristics of excluded studies table.

There is one ongoing randomised controlled trial of hydrocortisone to prevent bronchopulmonary dysplasia (Onland 2011).

Included studies

Ariagno 1987 was updated with complete data provided by the investigators in September 2000. Thirty-four preterm infants of less than 1501 g birth weight who were ventilator-dependent and not weaning from mechanical ventilation at three weeks of age were randomised into parenteral dexamethasone or placebo groups. The treated babies received one of two regimens: a 10-day course of 1.0 mg/kg/day for four days and 0.5 mg/kg/day for six days or a seven-day course of 1.0 mg/kg/day for three days followed by 0.5 mg/kg/day for four days. Total respiratory system compliance was calculated from a pneumotachometer and airway pressure measurements were made during mechanical inflation before and after seven days treatment. Outcomes included mortality, duration of ventilation and oxygen therapy, and complications of prematurity and treatment.

Avery 1985 enrolled 16 infants with a birth weight of less than 1500 g, a clinical and radiographic diagnosis of respiratory distress syndrome, inability to be weaned from the ventilator after two weeks and radiological evidence of stage II or III bronchopulmonary dysplasia (Northway 1967). Babies were excluded if they had patent ductus arteriosus, congenital heart disease, sepsis, pneumonia, had received intravenous lipids for at least 24 hours and were over six weeks of age. Those randomised to receive dexamethasone were given 0.5 mg/kg/day intravenously in two divided doses for three days, followed by 0.3 mg/kg/day for a further three days and thereafter decreased by 10% of the current dose every three days until a dose of 0.1 mg/kg/day was reached. At that point the drug was given on alternate days for one week and then discontinued.

Brozanski 1995 was a prospective, randomised, double-blind trial to assess the efficacy and safety of pulse doses of dexamethasone on survival without supplemental oxygen in very low birth weight infants at high risk of having chronic lung disease. Seventy-eight infants with a birth weight of less than 1501 g, who were ventilator-dependent at seven days, were randomly assigned to receive pulse doses of dexamethasone 0.5 mg/kg/day 12-hourly or an equivalent volume of a saline placebo for three days at 10-day intervals until they no longer required supplemental oxygen or assisted ventilation, or reached 36 weeks' postmenstrual age. Infants with complex congenital anomalies, pulmonary hypoplasia or haemodynamic instability were excluded from the study.

CDTG 1991 (Collaborative Dexamethasone Trial Group 1991) was a multicentre trial conducted in 31 centres in six countries over a two and a half year period from August 1986 to January 1989. Two hundred and eighty-seven infants who were oxygen-dependent and had been in a static or deteriorating condition over the preceding week were eligible for trial entry from around three weeks of age. Infants with major malformations were excluded and trial entry was delayed to allow treatment of any intercurrent infection or heart failure. The infants did not require mechanical ventilation at the time of entry. Those allocated to the dexamethasone group were given 0.6 mg/kg/day intravenously (or orally if there was no intravenous line) for one week. There was the option to give a second tapering nine-day course (0.6, 0.4 and 0.2 mg/kg/day for three days each) if, after initial improvement, relapse occurred. An equivalent volume of saline placebo was given to control infants.

In Cummings 1989, 36 preterm infants with a birth weight of less than 1251 g and a gestational age of less than 31 weeks, who were dependent on oxygen (> 29%) and mechanical ventilation (rate > 14 per minute and no evidence of weaning during the previous 72 hours) at two weeks of age, were randomised to receive either a 42-day course of dexamethasone, an 18-day course of dexamethasone or saline placebo. Infants with symptomatic patent ductus arteriosus, renal failure or sepsis were not included. In the 42-day group dexamethasone was administered at a dose of 0.5 mg/kg/day for three days and 0.3 mg/kg/day for the next three days. The dose was then reduced by 10% every three days until a dose of 0.1 mg/kg was reached on day 34. After three days at this dose the drug was given on alternate days for one week and then stopped. Infants in the 18-day dexamethasone group received the same initial dose of 0.5 mg/kg/day for three days, but their dose was then decreased more rapidly by 50% every three days until a dose of 0.06 mg/kg was reached on day 10. After three days at this dose the drug was given on alternate days for one week and then stopped. For the remaining four treatment days those infants received saline placebo. Infants in the control group received saline placebo for 42 days. The two treatment groups were combined for the purposes of this meta-analysis.

In Doyle 2006, a total of 70 infants of either less than 1000 g birth weight or born at less than 28 weeks' gestation, who were at least seven days of age, ventilator-dependent and considered eligible for postnatal corticosteroids, were enrolled from March 2000 to October 2002. Exclusions were few and comprised only those with congenital anomalies likely to affect long-term neurological outcome adversely. There were 11 collaborating centres within Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Stratification was by centre. Infants were randomly allocated to twice-daily doses of either a 10-day tapering course of dexamethasone sodium phosphate (0.15 mg/kg/day for three days, 0.10 mg/kg/day for three days, 0.05 mg/kg/day for two days, 0.02 mg/kg/day for two days; total of 0.89 mg/kg over 10 days) (n = 35 infants) or an equivalent volume of 0.9% saline placebo (n = 35 infants). A repeat course of the same blinded drug was a therapeutic option for attending physicians. The dexamethasone preparation did not contain bisulphite preservative. The sample size calculation for the original trial was based on detecting an improvement in survival free of major neurosensory disability from 50% to 60%, with a two-sided type I error rate of 5% and 80% power, and required a total of 814 infants to be recruited. The study was stopped early at 70 infants, not only because less than 10% of the initial sample had been recruited after 2.5 years, making it unlikely that the total sample size of 814 would be achieved within a reasonable time, but also because the rate of recruitment had fallen, not increased, even though more centres had entered the study from its inception.

Durand 1995 was a prospective, randomised trial of 43 infants of birth weight 600 g to 1500 g and a gestational age of between 24 and 32 weeks who failed to be weaned from the ventilator at 7 to 14 days. Their oxygen requirement was > 29% and ventilator rate > 13 per minute. Exclusions included infants with documented sepsis, evidence of systemic hypertension, congenital heart disease, renal failure, intraventricular haemorrhage (grade IV) and infants with congenital anomalies. Infants in the treatment group received dexamethasone 0.5 mg/kg/day 12-hourly intravenously for the first three days, 0.25 mg/kg/day for the next three days and 0.10 mg/kg/day on the seventh day of treatment. Controls received no dexamethasone during the seven-day study period. At the end of the week of the study the attending clinician could start dexamethasone treatment in controls.

In Harkavy 1989, 21 preterm infants who were ventilator and oxygen-dependent at 30 days of age were randomised to receive either dexamethasone or placebo. Dexamethasone 0.5 mg/kg/day in two or more doses was given either intravenously or by mouth. An equivalent volume of saline was given to controls.

Kari 1993 was a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial that enrolled 41 infants with a birth weight of less than 1501 g, a gestational age of more than 23 weeks, dependence on mechanical ventilation at 10 days and no signs of patent ductus arteriosus, sepsis, gastrointestinal bleeding or major malformations. Infants in the dexamethasone group received 0.5 mg/kg/day intravenously in two doses for seven days, whereas the placebo group received normal saline.

In Kazzi 1990, 23 preterm infants with a birth weight of less than 1500 g, radiological findings consistent with a diagnosis of bronchopulmonary dysplasia, who were ventilator-dependent at three to four weeks of age, were eligible for entry provided that they needed more than 34% oxygen, a ventilator rate of more than 14 per minute or peak inspiratory pressure > 17 cm H2O. They also had to show lack of improvement in ventilator dependency during the preceding five days. Infants in the treatment group received dexamethasone 0.50 mg/kg/day for three days given as a single daily dose by nasogastric tube. This dose was tapered to 0.40 mg/kg/day for two days and then to 0.25 mg/kg/day for two days. Thereafter, the infants received hydrocortisone administered in four divided doses every six hours beginning with 8 mg/kg/day for two days and tapered by 50% of the dose every other day until 0.5 mg/kg/day was reached. After a total of 17 days therapy (seven of dexamethasone and 10 of hydrocortisone) treatment was discontinued. Infants in the control group received equal volumes of saline.

In Kothadia 1999, 118 preterm infants (birth weight of less than 1501 g) aged between 15 and 25 days, who were ventilator-dependent, were randomly allocated to receive a 42-day tapering course of dexamethasone or saline placebo. The dosage schedule was 0.25 mg/kg 12-hourly for three days, 0.15 mg/kg 12-hourly for three days, followed by a 10% reduction in dose every three days until a dose of 0.1 mg/kg had been given for three days, from which time 0.1 mg/kg every other day until 42 days after entry.

Kovacs 1998 was a double-blind, randomised controlled trial to assess the efficacy of a combination of prophylactic systemic dexamethasone and nebulised budesonide in reducing the incidence and severity of chronic lung disease in infants of less than 30 weeks' gestation and less than 1501 g who were ventilator-dependent at the age of seven days. Thirty infants received dexamethasone 0.25 mg/kg twice daily for three days, followed by nebulised budesonide 500 µg twice daily for 18 days. Thirty control infants received systemic and inhaled saline.

In Noble-Jamieson 1989, 18 infants over four weeks of age who required more than 30% oxygen were enrolled. Congenital infection, gastric erosion and necrotising enterocolitis were absolute contraindications to trial entry; one infant was excluded because of necrotising enterocolitis. Entry was postponed if an infant had a central venous catheter, active infection, untreated patent ductus arteriosus, glucose intolerance or major segmental pulmonary collapse. Trial entry was postponed in 11 infants, mainly because of suspected sepsis. Infants were randomly allocated to receive either dexamethasone or saline. Dexamethasone was given orally or intravenously in a dose of 0.25 mg/kg twice daily for the first week, 0.125 mg/kg twice daily for the second week and 0.10 mg/kg daily for the third week. Twice weekly cranial ultrasound scans were performed on all infants and analysed blindly after the study.

In Ohlsson 1992, 25 infants with a birth weight of less than 1501 g were enrolled after parental informed consent, if the following criteria were met: postnatal age 21 to 35 days, inspired oxygen over 29%, chest radiograph consistent with chronic lung disease and treatment with diuretics resulted in no signs of improvement in ventilator requirements during the previous 72 hours. Infants were excluded if they had a diagnosis of suspected or proven infection, significant congenital malformation, clinical evidence of patent ductus arteriosus, necrotising enterocolitis and gastrointestinal haemorrhage or perforation. The treatment group received dexamethasone 0.50 mg/kg 12-hourly for three days, 0.25 mg/kg 12-hourly for three days, 0.125 mg/kg 12-hourly for three days and 0.125 mg/kg daily for three days. Dexamethasone was given intravenously in a standard volume of 1 ml. The Research Ethical Committee did not permit the use of an intravenous placebo so a sham injection of 1 ml of normal saline was given into the bed in the control group by a physician not involved in subsequent care of the infant.

Papile 1998 was a double-blind randomised controlled trial to compare the benefits and hazards of initiating dexamethasone therapy at two weeks of age versus four weeks of age in 371 ventilator-dependent very low birth weight (501 g to 1500 g) infants who had respiratory index scores (mean airway pressure (MAP) x fraction of inspired oxygen) greater than/or equal to 2.4 at two weeks of age. One hundred and eighty-two infants received dexamethasone for two weeks followed by placebo for two weeks and 189 infants received placebo for two weeks followed by either dexamethasone (those with a respiratory index score greater than/or equal to 2.4 on treatment day 14) or additional placebo for two weeks. Dexamethasone was given at a dose of 0.5 mg/kg/day intravenously or orally for five days and the dose was then tapered. Only outcome data at 28 days were eligible for inclusion in this review (see below).

Parikh 2013 was a double-blind randomised controlled trial of hydrocortisone versus saline placebo in 64 infants with a birth weight of 1000 g or less who were ventilator-dependent between 10 to 21 days of age, with the primary outcome being differences in brain tissue volumes on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at term-equivalent age. Thirty-one infants received a total of 17 mg/kg of hydrocortisone over seven days and 33 infants received an identical volume of saline placebo.

Romagnoli 1998 was a randomised trial of 30 preterm infants, ventilator- and oxygen-dependent at 10 days and at 90% risk of developing chronic lung disease using the authors' own scoring system. Fifteen infants received dexamethasone 0.5 mg/kg/day for six days, 0.25 mg/kg/day for six days and 0.125 mg/kg/day for three days (total dose 4.875 mg/kg). Control infants did not receive any steroid.

Scott 1997 was a double-blind randomised controlled trial of dexamethasone versus saline placebo in 15 infants who were ventilator-dependent between 11 to 14 days of age, with the primary outcome being the cortisol response to adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH). Ten infants received a total of 1.9 mg/kg of dexamethasone over five days and five infants received an identical volume of saline placebo.

Vento 2004 was a randomised trial of 20 neonates with a birth weight of less than 1251 g and a gestation of less than 33 weeks who were oxygen and ventilator-dependent on the 10th day of life. They received either dexamethasone 0.5 mg/kg/day for three days, 0.25 mg/kg/day for three days and 0.125 mg/kg/day for one day or no steroid treatment.

In Vincer 1998, 20 very low birth weight infants who were ventilator-dependent at 28 days were randomly assigned to receive either a six-day course of intravenous dexamethasone 0.5 mg/kg/day for three days followed by 0.3 mg/kg/day for the final three days or to receive an equal volume of saline placebo. This trial included a two year follow-up.

Walther 2003 was a double-blind randomised clinical trial involving preterm infants with a birth weight of more than 599 g, gestation of 24 to 32 weeks and respiratory distress syndrome requiring mechanical ventilation with oxygen of > 29% between 7 and 14 days of life. Eligible infants received either dexamethasone 0.2 mg/kg/day for four days, 0.15 mg/kg/day for four days and 0.25 mg/kg/day for two days (total dose 1.9 mg/kg over 14 days) or saline placebo.

Excluded studies

Studies of the use of postnatal corticosteroids commenced in the first week of life to prevent chronic lung disease in preterm infants are addressed in the review of Doyle and colleagues (Doyle 2014) and include the following studies: Baden 1972; Halac 1990; Yeh 1990; Sanders 1994; Rastogi 1996; Shinwell 1996; Suske 1996; Wang 1996; Subhedar 1997; Yeh 1997 Mukhopadhyay 1998; Tapia 1998; Garland 1999; Kopelman 1999; Lin 1999; Romagnoli 1999; Soll 1999; Watterberg 1999; Sinkin 2000; Stark 2001; Biswas 2003; Vento 2004; Watterberg 2004; Anttila 2005; Efird 2005; Peltoniemi 2005; Ng 2006; Bonsante 2007; Batton 2012. See Characteristics of excluded studies.

Risk of bias in included studies

Overall the risk of bias was low for most studies. They were all randomised controlled trials, although the method of random allocation was not always clear. Allocation concealment applied to most studies. Blinding of investigators and others was mostly achieved through use of placebos, usually saline solution. Follow-up reporting for short-term outcomes was mostly complete, but was more variable for long-term outcomes beyond discharge and later into childhood.

Ariagno 1987 was a double-blind trial with randomisation performed by the pharmacist. Outcomes were given for all infants enrolled.

The follow-up component was as follows (Ariagno 2000): surviving children were assessed at 12, 24 and 36 months of age, corrected for prematurity, in the High Risk Follow-Up Clinic. Data included cerebral palsy and auditory status, but criteria were not defined. Personnel involved and blinding of assessors to treatment group was unclear. The follow-up rate of survivors was 96% (23/24).

Treatment and control infants in Avery 1985 were paired and compared for success in weaning. Infants were stratified at entry by weight into three categories: less than 1000 g, 1000 g to 1250 g and 1251 g to 1500 g. Within each weight group an equal number of treatment cards and control cards were placed into the envelopes for random selection. The first treated infant and the first control infant within a given weight category made the first pair, and only infants who were paired were considered in the sequential analysis for weaning success. If both infants in a pair were either successful or failed the result was a tie and the pair was discarded. If one infant weaned and the other infant did not, the untied pair was scored as favouring treatment or control. The study was stopped when significance was reached from weaning from the ventilator in the sequential analysis of untied pairs. At that time 16 infants had been studied and 14 had been matched to form seven pairs. There was no follow-up component.

In Brozanski 1995, randomisation, which was achieved by use of a random numbers table, was stratified according to gender and birth weight (less than 1000 g versus more than 999 g). Treatment allocation was reported on cards inside sequentially numbered envelopes that were kept in the pharmacy where the randomisation took place. Eight-eight infants were enrolled but outcome data, apart from survival without supplemental oxygen at 36 weeks' postmenstrual age, were given for 78 infants. Ten infants were withdrawn during the study because of pharmacy error (dexamethasone group two infants, placebo group one infant), parental choice (placebo group two infants) or attending physician request (dexamethasone group one infant, placebo group four infants). All five of the infants withdrawn from the study by the attending physician subsequently received an extended course of dexamethasone.

The follow-up component was as follows (Hofkosh 1995): survivors were seen at 12 months of age, corrected for prematurity, by unknown observer(s) blinded to treatment group allocation. The follow-up rate of survivors was 68% (44/65). Criteria for the diagnosis of cerebral palsy were not specified. Psychological assessment included the Mental Developmental Index (MDI) of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID). There were no data reported on major disability.

Group assignment in CDTG 1991 was by telephone call to the Clinical Trial Service Unit in Oxford. There was stratification by clinical centre and whether or not the babies were ventilator-dependent. Following the trial clinicians could give open steroids if this was clinically indicated because of life-threatening deterioration. Infants were retained in the group to which they had been allocated for the purpose of analysis. Two hundred and eighty-seven infants were enrolled in the trial; two were ineligible because of major malformations (Fallot's tetralogy, oesophageal atresia) so that 285 infants were included in the analysis.

The follow-up component was as follows (Jones 1995): a) At three years of age: data on survivors were obtained at 36 months of age, not corrected for prematurity. The primary sources of data, obtained in the UK and Ireland, were health visitors, who provided data on major neurosensory diagnoses or other chronic problems, and general practitioners, who provided data on health and hospitalisations. Parents completed questionnaires, including the Minnesota Child Development Inventory (CDI). Parents, health visitors and general practitioners (GPs) were unaware of treatment group allocation. In some countries data were sought from paediatricians only (< 10% cases). The follow-up rate of survivors was 94% (209/223). Criteria for the diagnosis of cerebral palsy or blindness were not specified, but severe hearing loss (deafness) was defined as hearing loss requiring either hearing aids or special schooling. Major disability comprised any of non-ambulant cerebral palsy at three years of age, < 50% of age level on the CDI, or predicted special schooling for sensory or other impairment. b) At 13 to 17 years of age (Jones 2005A; Jones 2005b): surviving children from the 25 British and Irish centres were assessed at 13 to 17 years of age by assessors at individual study sites who were blinded to treatment group allocation. The families completed a questionnaire on functional status, diagnoses of potentially disabling conditions (visual or hearing impairments, learning disabilities, cerebral palsy and epilepsy) and the child's schooling. GPs were asked to complete a questionnaire, reporting any known functional problems, diagnoses, and hospital admissions. The diagnosis of cerebral palsy was made by the paediatrician responsible for each child's care. Surviving children were visited at home by one of three research nurses, who were blinded to the children's original treatment allocation. A nonverbal reasoning test and the British Picture Vocabulary Scale were administered, which were averaged as a proxy for IQ. Moderate disability was defined as one or two of the following: IQ 2 to 3 standard deviations (SD) below the mean, ambulatory cerebral palsy, hearing deficits corrected with hearing aids, impaired vision or a behaviour disorder with a major impact on schooling. Severe disability was defined as any of the following: IQ more than 3 SD below the mean, wheelchair-dependent cerebral palsy, uncorrectable hearing loss, blind (perception of light only) or three moderate disabilities. Respiratory function included spirometry to measure forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), the FEV1/FVC ratio and forced expired flow from 25% to 75% (FEF)25%-75%, and results were expressed as standardised scores (z-scores), as were growth measurements. Other outcomes were assessed but not included in the review. These included data on the types of schooling, teacher questionnaires of a child's ability and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. The follow-up rate of survivors at 13 to 17 years was 77% (150/195), including data from five severely disabled children at three years of age who were not contacted as teenagers.

In Cummings 1989, randomisation was determined by sequential assignment from a table of random numbers known only to a pharmacist who had no knowledge of the clinical status of the infants. Outcome data are presented for all 36 infants enrolled in the study. There were two experimental groups: one treated for 18 days and another treated for 42 days compared with a single control group. In these analyses the treatment groups have been combined (n = 25) and compared with the control group (n = 11).

The follow-up component was as follows: a) Survivors were seen at 15 months of age, corrected for prematurity, by a paediatrician and an occupational therapist. Observers were blinded to treatment group allocation. The follow-up rate of survivors was 100% (23/23). Criteria for the diagnosis of cerebral palsy were specified, but there were no specific criteria for blindness or deafness. Psychological assessment included the MDI and the Psychomotor Developmental Index (PDI) of the BSID. Major disability comprised any of the following: cerebral palsy or a MDI or PDI < 1 SD. b) Survivors were reassessed at four years of age. Neurological status was confirmed for all participants (Cummings 2002). c) Further follow-up was reported at 15 years of age (Gross 2005). Assessors were blinded to treatment group allocation. Outcomes included growth (body size converted to z-scores), general health, respiratory morbidity and respiratory function tests. Cognition was assessed with the WISC-III. Teachers completed data on class repetition, performance and behaviour. Pulmonary function testing included spirometry to measure the forced expired volume in one second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC) and the forced expiratory flow rate between 25% and 75% of FVC (FEF25%-75%), and lung volumes (total lung capacity (TLC) and residual volume (RV)) were measured by nitrogen washout; results were expressed as % predicted for age, height and gender. The authors reported the number of surviving children with ongoing respiratory symptoms of wheezing or congestion, which were interpreted as a diagnosis of asthma for meta-analysis. Intact survival was defined as a normal neurological examination, an IQ > 70 and receiving education in a normal classroom. For the meta-analysis, major neurological disability was defined as any of an abnormal neurological examination (i.e. cerebral palsy), cognitive delay (IQ < 71) or not in a regular classroom (with or without additional help). Blood pressure was not measured.

Doyle 2006 was a double-blind trial with randomisation performed centrally by non-clinical staff independent of the chief investigators, with random variation in block sizes of two to eight for each centre. Syringes were prepared and labelled identically within the pharmacy department of the centre, concealing treatment allocation from the study site's investigators and the infant's caregivers. Open-label corticosteroids were discouraged after randomisation, but not prohibited; some infants may have received both a second course of their initially allocated study drug and open-label corticosteroids. No one apart from the pharmacist at individual study sites had access to the treatment code. Short-term outcomes were reported for all infants enrolled.

The follow-up component was as follows (Doyle 2007): surviving children were assessed at 24 months of age, corrected for prematurity, by paediatricians and psychologists at individual study sites who were blinded to treatment group allocation. Children were considered to have a neurosensory impairment if they had cerebral palsy (criteria included abnormalities of tone and motor dysfunction), blindness (bilateral vision worse than 6/60), deafness requiring hearing aids or worse or developmental delay (defined as a MDI on the BSID < 85 (< -1 SD); Bayley 1993). The severity of the neurosensory disability imposed by the impairment was graded as follows: severe - bilateral blindness, cerebral palsy with the child unlikely ever to walk or MDI < 55 (< -3 SD)); moderate - deafness, cerebral palsy in children not walking at two years but expected to walk, or MDI from 55 to < 70 (-3 SD to < -2 SD); mild - cerebral palsy but walking at two years with only minimal limitation of movement or MDI 70 to < 85 (< -1 SD).  The remaining children were considered to have no neurosensory disability. Major neurosensory disability comprised either moderate or severe disability. The follow-up rate of survivors at two years was 98% (58/59).

In Durand 1995, randomisation was performed by blind drawing of random cards contained in sealed envelopes. Clinical personnel were not aware of the group assignment of any infant. Outcome data are presented for 43 of the 44 infants enrolled. One infant in the control group was excluded from all analyses because of birth weight of less than 500 g.

The follow-up component was as follows (Durand 2012): surviving children were assessed at 12 months of age, corrected for prematurity, by a developmental paediatrician, a paediatric neurologist and other specialised personnel (including a psychologist). A paediatric ophthalmologist performed all the eye exams. All staff were blinded to treatment group allocation. Children were considered to have a neurosensory impairment if they had cerebral palsy (defined as non-progressive motor impairment with abnormal muscle tone and decreased range of movements), blindness (bilateral vision worse than 6/60), deafness requiring hearing aids or worse, or developmental delay (defined as MDI < 70 on the BSID). The follow-up rate of survivors at 12 months was 78% (29/37).

In Harkavy 1989, randomisation was by use of random numbers held in the pharmacy. Clinicians and investigators were unaware of treatment assignments. Outcome data are given for 21 of the 22 infants enrolled. One infant died after consent but before random assignment to a treatment group.

The follow-up component was as follows (Harkavy 2002): survivors were seen at ages ranging from 6 to 24 months, corrected for prematurity, by a neonatologist and an occupational therapist. Observers were blinded to treatment group allocation. The follow-up rate of survivors was 32% (6/19). Criteria for the diagnosis of cerebral palsy, blindness or deafness were not specified. Psychological assessment included the MDI of the BSID. Major disability was not defined.

In Kari 1993, randomisation was performed in blocks of 10 for each participating hospital. Clinicians and investigators were unaware of treatment assignments. Outcome data are presented for all 41 infants enrolled in the trial. The number of infants recruited was only 25% of the estimate required for the sample size. The study was therefore discontinued after 26 months.

The follow-up component was as follows (Mieskonen 2003): follow-up was from only one of four centres in this multicentre study; this centre contributed 23 of the 41 participants to the original study. Three infants died before discharge (one dexamethasone; two placebo). There were no known late deaths in childhood. Survivors were followed in the hospital's outpatient clinic. One child in the dexamethasone group had deafness requiring a hearing aid, seizures treated with anticonvulsants, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and required assistance with schooling, but did not have cerebral palsy at 7.8 years of age. This child would not co-operate with the respiratory component of the study. Another child in the dexamethasone group had no definite cerebral palsy at 2.6 years of age, was not traced at school age but was said to be attending normal school. One child in the placebo group had multiple difficulties in speech and cognitive function at five years of age, and was expected to require extra help at school, but refused further follow-up. Another child in the placebo group had minor difficulties in comprehension at five years of age, but was lost to further follow-up. In total, 16 children participated in the follow-up study at seven to nine years of age. Neurological status at five years of age was recorded from hospital records, including assessments for cerebral palsy (abnormal muscle tone, increased tendon reflexes and positive Babinski sign, or persistent or exaggerated primitive reflexes, dyskinesia or ataxia), visual or hearing deficits, and school maturity (details of testing not given). Severe disability comprised any of more than mild cerebral palsy, severe global delay (not defined), or sensory or other impairment requiring special schooling; moderate disability comprised any of mild cerebral palsy, severe deafness, moderate global delay (extra help needed at school, assessment of global retardation or language problems), or home oxygen beyond three years of age. For this meta-analysis, we have extracted data for major neurological disability for those with more than mild cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness or needing extra help with schooling. Children were then assessed at 7.8 to 9.2 years of age by one investigator blinded to neonatal details, including presumably to treatment group allocation. Age was not corrected for prematurity. Children had height and weight measured, lung function tests, an electrocardiogram (ECG) and echocardiography.

In Kazzi 1990, random assignment was by drawing a pre-coded card prepared from a table of random numbers. There was stratification by birth weight into three groups: less than 1000 g, 1000 g to 1250 g and 1251 g to 1500 g. The card from the appropriate group was drawn by the pharmacist and neither the investigators nor the nursery staff were aware of the treatment group. Outcome data are given for all 23 infants enrolled. There was no follow-up component.

In Kothadia 1999, infants were randomised within six strata, defined in terms of birth weight (500 g to 800 g, 801 g to 1100 g and 1101 g to 1500 g) and gender, with a block size of eight. The exact method of randomisation was not described. Control infants were give an equal volume of normal saline. Outcome data were assessed in a blinded fashion. It was initially described that there was zero cross-over in this trial, but when reviewing the children at age 19 years it was discovered that one child who was randomised to placebo, received a 42-day tapering course of placebo, but then subsequently received a 12-day tapering course of dexamethasone. In addition, three of the children randomised to placebo received 24-hour courses of dexamethasone for upper airway edema.

The follow-up component was as follows: a) survivors were seen at 12 months of age, corrected for prematurity, by a developmental paediatrician or one of two neonatologists and a physical therapist if any neurological abnormality was detected. Observers were blind to treatment group allocation. The follow-up rate of survivors at 12 months of age was 98% (93/95). Criteria for the diagnosis of cerebral palsy were specified. Blindness was diagnosed by paediatric ophthalmologists. Deafness was not defined. Psychological assessment included the MDI of the BSID; the first 10 infants were assessed with the original Bayley Scales, and the remainder with the BSID-II. Major disability comprised any of cerebral palsy, blindness or an MDI < -2 SD. b) Children were assessed again at 4 to 6 years of age and at 8 to 11 years of age (Washburn 2006; Nixon 2007). Parents, children and follow-up examiners were not aware of children's randomisation assignment. Cerebral palsy was diagnosed at four to six years if the child had a neuromotor abnormality based on a neurological examination by a nurse with specialised training in neurodevelopmental follow-up and the parent reported that the child was receiving treatment for cerebral palsy. A parent was interviewed again at the 8 to 11-year visit as to whether a diagnosis of cerebral palsy had ever been made. For intelligence and academic achievement, at the four to six-year visit, a child psychologist assessed the child using the Differential Abilities Scales (DAS), the Kaufman Survey of Early Academic and Language Skills (K-SEALS) and the Vineland Adaptive Behavioral Scales (VABS). At the 8 to 11-year visit, a child psychologist assessed the child using the Wechsler Individual Achievement Tests (WIAT), the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - Third Edition (WISC-III) and the VABS. For definition of major neurodevelopmental impairment, at four to six years and/or 8 to 11 years, a major neurodevelopmental impairment was defined as either cerebral palsy at four to six years of age or mental retardation (IQ < 70 on either the DAS (n = 11 participants) or the WISC-III (n = 71 participants) and a VABS composite score < 70) at last follow-up. For five dexamethasone-treated and eight placebo-treated children who did not undergo intelligence testing at either four to six years or 8 to 11 years of age, major neurodevelopmental impairment was defined as either blindness, cerebral palsy (at the most recent visit) or a Bayley Mental Developmental Index (MDI) < 70 for adjusted age. All survivors were assessed at least once, at or beyond one year of age. The follow-up rate at 4 to 11 years of age was 88% (84/95). c) Respiratory data were collected at 8 to 11 years of age using pulmonary function testing. Forced expiratory flow rates and volumes (FVC, fFEV1, the FEV1/FVC ratio and the FEF25%-75%) were obtained, expressed as % of predicted as appropriate and considered to be abnormal if below the 5th percentile. Total lung capacity (TLC) and residual volume (RV) were determined from body plethysmography and expressed as a ratio (RV/TLC), and pulmonary diffusing capacity (DL, CO) via the single-breath carbon monoxide technique. However, the majority of children could not cope with the plethysmography and the single-breath diffusion manoeuvre and hence TLC, RV and diffusing capacity data were not analysed. Asthma diagnosis and airway reactivity was also assessed. Children were categorised as having asthma if the parent or guardian reported that the child had asthma, used medications for asthma treatment or both. A sub-sample of children also underwent maximal progressive exercise testing on a cycle ergometer as part of the larger study. Spirometry was repeated immediately and five minutes post-exercise, as well as 20 minutes following three puffs of albuterol delivered with a spacer. A 15% decrease in FEV1 from pre-exercise values was the criterion used to define exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. A 12% increase in FEV1 from pre-exercise levels was considered to be a positive bronchodilator response.  The follow-up rate at 8 to 11 years of age for respiratory data was 72% (68/95), but was 66% (63/95) for respiratory function tests. 

In Kovacs 1998, eligible infants were assigned using a "blocked" randomisation procedure and only the designated pharmacist who prepared all study medications was aware of the group assignments. Infants were stratified prior to randomisation into two categories according to gestational age (22 to 26 weeks versus 27 to 29 weeks).

The follow-up component was as follows (Kovacs 2002): data were obtained from the regular follow-up clinic at ages up to 90 months in 70% (33/47) of survivors. Personnel involved, blinding of assessors to treatment group and criteria for various diagnoses, including cerebral palsy and major disability, were not specified.

The method of randomisation in Noble-Jamieson 1989 was not described. Medical and nursing staff were unaware of the drug given. Outcome data are given for all 18 infants enrolled. There was no follow-up component.

In Ohlsson 1992, randomisation was performed by using computer-generated random numbers and the allocation group was written down on cards enclosed in opaque envelopes and kept under lock in the pharmacy. Envelopes were available only to the pharmacist who drew the appropriate card and distributed the study drug. The problem of administering the placebo is discussed under Description of studies. Treatment was discontinued for suspected infection in one infant in each group. Treatment was also discontinued for blood transfusion-derived cytomegalovirus infection for one infant in the study group. Outcome data are provided for all the infants enrolled.

The follow-up component was as follows (Ohlsson 1990): survivors were seen in the regular follow-up clinic up to at least 18 months of age in 96% (23/24) of cases; the remaining survivor was developing normally when last seen at 12 months of age. Age was probably not corrected for prematurity. Personnel involved and blinding of observers were not specified. Criteria for the diagnoses of cerebral palsy and blindness were not specified. Psychological assessment included the MDI of the BSID.

In Papile 1998, random assignment took place in each centre's pharmacy using the urn method, a procedure that promotes an equal distribution of subjects among treatment groups. In order to blind clinical staff to the treatment group assignments, different volumes of placebo (saline) were prepared to match the various doses of dexamethasone. There was no follow-up component.

An individual not involved with the study generated the random allocation sequence in Parikh 2013. The randomisation was blocked for birth weight (less than 750 g versus 751 g to 1000 g) and respiratory index (2 to 4 versus > 4). The randomisation procedure was known only to the study pharmacists and an independent study monitor. Blinding was maintained by using an identical volume of saline placebo. There was no follow-up component.

In Romagnoli 1998, random allocation was achieved by opening numbered, sealed envelopes. Control infants were not given a placebo. Outcome measures were reported for all 30 infants included in the study.

The follow-up component was as follows (Romagnoli 2002): survivors were seen at 36 to 42 months of age, corrected for prematurity, by one paediatrician and one neurologist, with observers blinded to treatment group allocation. The follow-up rate of survivors was 100% (30/30). The diagnosis of cerebral palsy was made by the neurologist but criteria were not specified and there were no specific criteria reported for blindness and deafness. Psychological assessment included the Stanford Binet test - 3rd Revision. There were no data on major disability.

Randomisation in Scott 1997 was achieved using a random number table. Blinding was maintained by using an identical volume of saline placebo. There was no follow-up component.

The method of randomisation in Vento 2004 is not stated. It is not clear if the clinicians caring for the infants or those assessing outcomes were blinded to treatment group assignment. The control group did not receive a placebo.

The follow-up component was as follows (Vento 2012): surviving children were assessed between one and four years of age, corrected for prematurity up to two years, by a paediatric neurologist who was blinded to treatment group allocation. Children were considered to have a major neurosensory impairment if they had non-ambulant cerebral palsy, blindness (bilateral vision worse than 6/60), deafness requiring hearing aids or worse, or severe cognitive delay (defined as an IQ < 55). The follow-up rate of survivors at a mean age of 26 months was 100% (18/18).

Random allocation in Vincer 1998 occurred but the method was not described in the abstract. Control infants were given equal volumes of saline placebo, which means that the study was probably double-blind.

The follow-up component was as follows (Vincer 2002): survivors were seen at 24 months of age, corrected for prematurity, by one of two neonatologists. Children with a developmental abnormality were referred to a neurologist. Observers were blind to treatment group allocation. The follow-up rate of survivors was 100% (17/17). Criteria for the diagnosis of cerebral palsy were specified, but not for blindness or deafness. Psychological assessment included the MDI of the BSID. Major disability comprised any of moderate or severe cerebral palsy, bilateral blindness, deafness or an MDI < 2 SD.

In Walther 2003, a staff pharmacist was in charge of randomisation and drug preparation. The investigators and clinical care-givers were unaware of the treatment allocation. Infants in the control group received a saline placebo. Open-label steroid therapy was used only if it became essential to management of ventilator dependency, ideally seven days after completion of therapy and at the discretion of the attending neonatologist.

The follow-up component was as follows (Walther 2012): surviving children were assessed between one and four years of age, but details about correction for prematurity and the personnel involved could not be provided; they were, however, blinded to knowledge of the treatment group allocation. Developmental delay was defined as MDI < 70 on the BSID. The follow-up rate of survivors was 78% (25/32).

Effects of interventions

Results of meta-analysis

Meta-analysis of these 21 studies showed the following results.

Mortality

Late steroid treatment was associated with reduced mortality at 28 days (typical risk ratio (RR) 0.49, 95% CI 0.28 to 0.85; typical risk difference (RD) -0.06, 95% CI -0.10 to -0.01; eight studies and 656 infants) (Analysis 1.1), but had no significant effect on mortality before discharge (typical RR 0.86, 95% CI 0.66 to 1.13; typical RD -0.02, 95% CI -0.07 to 0.02; 19 studies and 1035 infants) (Analysis 1.2) or on mortality at the latest reported age (RR 0.86, 95% CI 0.67 to 1.10; RD -0.03, 95% CI -0.08 to 0.02; 19 studies and 1035 infants) (Analysis 1.3). There was no evidence of publication bias for mortality at the latest reported age on a funnel plot (Figure 1).

Chronic lung disease

The incidence of chronic lung disease was significantly decreased at 28 days (typical RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.81 to 0.94; typical RD -0.11, 95% CI -0.17 to -0.05; six studies and 623 infants) (Analysis 2.1) and at 36 weeks' postmenstrual age (RR 0.76, 95% CI 0.66 to 0.88; RD -0.15, 95% CI -0.25 to -0.07; nine studies and 535 infants) (Analysis 2.2), and at 36 weeks' postmenstrual age in survivors (RR 0.82, 95% CI 0.70 to 0.96; RD -0.13, 95% CI -0.23 to -0.03; five studies and 265 infants) (Analysis 2.3). There was some suggestion of publication bias on a funnel plot for chronic lung disease at 36 weeks (Figure 2). The need for late corticosteroids was reduced (typical RR 0.47, 95% CI 0.38 to 0.59; typical RD -0.17, 95% CI -0.22 to -0.12; 13 studies and 1096 infants) (Analysis 2.4). The need for home oxygen was reduced both overall (typical RR 0.71, 95% CI 0.54 to 0.94; typical RD -0.08, 95% CI -0.14 to -0.01; seven studies and 611 infants) (Analysis 2.5) and for survivors only (typical RR 0.69, 95% CI 0.51 to 0.94; typical RD -0.13, 95% CI -0.24 to -0.03; six studies and 277 infants) (Analysis 2.6).

Death or chronic lung disease

Mortality or chronic lung disease was decreased at both 28 days (typical RR 0.84, 95% CI 0.78 to 0.89; typical RD -0.15 to 95% CI -0.21 to -0.10; five studies and 563 infants) (Analysis 3.1) and 36 weeks' postmenstrual age (RR 0.76, 95% CI 0.68 to 0.85; RD -0.18, 95% CI -0.28 to -0.11; nine studies and 535 infants) (Analysis 3.2). There was some suggestion of publication bias on a funnel plot for mortality or chronic lung disease at 36 weeks (Figure 3).

Failure to extubate

Failure to extubate was significantly decreased at three days (typical RR 0.76, 95% CI 0.64 to 0.89; typical RD -0.22, 95% CI -0.33 to -0.11; five studies and 180 infants) (Analysis 4.1), at seven days (typical RR 0.64, 95% CI 0.56 to 0.74; typical RD -0.29, 95% CI -0.36 to -0.21; 10 studies and 497 infants) (Analysis 4.2) and at 28 days (typical RR 0.57, 95% CI 0.37 to 0.89; typical RD -0.14, 95% CI -0.25 to -0.03; three studies and 236 infants) (Analysis 4.4), but not at 14 days (typical RR 0.63, 95% CI 0.45 to 0.90; four studies and 105 infants) (Analysis 4.3).

Complications during the primary hospitalisation
Metabolic complications

The risk of hyperglycaemia was increased (typical RR 1.50, 95% CI 1.25 to 1.80; typical RD 0.10, 95% CI 0.06 to 0.15; 16 studies and 1271 infants) (Analysis 5.2) as was the risk of glycosuria (typical RR 8.03, 95% CI 2.43 to 26.5; typical RD 0.72, 95% CI 0.52 to 0.91; two studies and 48 infants) (Analysis 5.3). The risk of hypertension was also increased (typical RR 2.12, 95% CI 1.45 to 3.10; typical RD 0.06, 95% CI 0.03 to 0.08; 14 studies and 1175 infants) (Analysis 5.4).

Gastrointestinal complications

No gastrointestinal complications were significantly increased: necrotising enterocolitis (typical RR 1.03, 95% CI 0.61 to 1.74; nine studies and 1016 infants) (Analysis 5.6), gastrointestinal bleeding (typical RR 1.38, 95% CI 0.99 to 1.93; seven studies and 992 infants) (Analysis 5.7) and gastrointestinal perforation (RR 1.60, 95% CI 0.28 to 9.31; three studies and 159 infants) (Analysis 5.8).

Other complications

Infection rates were not significantly increased (typical RR 1.15, 95% CI 0.97 to 1.35; 16 studies and 1304 infants) (Analysis 5.1). Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy was increased (typical RR 2.76, 95% CI 1.33 to 5.74; typical RD 0.13, 95% CI 0.05 to 0.20; four studies and 238 infants) (Analysis 5.11), but the reductions in pneumothorax (typical RR 0.89, 95% CI 0.53 to 1.49; three studies and 157 infants) (Analysis 5.12) and severe intraventricular haemorrhage (typical RR 0.44, 95% CI 0.19 to 1.02; five studies and 247 infants) (Analysis 5.13) were not statistically significant. Severe retinopathy of prematurity was increased overall (typical RR 1.38, 95% CI 1.07 to 1.79; typical RD 0.09, 95% CI 0.02 to 0.16; 12 studies and 558 infants) (Analysis 5.9), but not in survivors (typical RR 1.31, 95% CI 0.99 to 1.74; nine studies and 416 infants) (Analysis 5.10). The increase in retinopathy of prematurity did not translate into a significant increase in blindness, either overall (typical RR 0.78, 95% CI 0.35 to 1.73; 12 studies and 720 infants) (Analysis 6.5) or in survivors assessed (typical RR 0.77, 95% CI 0.35 to 1.67; 12 studies and 502 infants) (Analysis 6.6). In one small study there was a non-significant increase in new cranial echodensities (RR 7.00, 95% CI 0.41 to 118.7; one study and 18 infants) but there was no follow-up of survivors in that study (Analysis 5.5).

Follow-up data

  • The rates of children having low cut-off scores for the Mental Develomental Index on the Bayley Scales were not significantly reduced, either overall (typical RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.41 to 1.85; four studies and 217 infants) (Analysis 6.1) or in survivors assessed (typical RR 0.77, 95% CI 0.37 to 1.63; four studies and 161 infants) (Analysis 6.2). The rates of children having low cut-off scores for the Psychomotor Develomental Index on the Bayley Scales were not significantly reduced, either overall (typical RR 0.78, 95% CI 0.34 to 1.80; one study and 118 infants) (Analysis 6.3) or in survivors assessed (typical RR 0.67, 95% CI 0.30 to 1.50; one study and 90 infants) (Analysis 6.4).
  • Blindness was not significantly reduced, either overall (typical RR 0.78, 95% CI 0.35 to 1.93; 12 studies and 720 infants) (Analysis 6.5) or in survivors assessed (typical RR 0.77, 95% CI 0.35 to 1.67; 12 studies and 502 infants) (Analysis 6.6).
  • Deafness was not significantly reduced, either overall (typical RR 0.56, 95% CI 0.22 to 1.44; seven studies and 501 infants) (Analysis 6.7) or in survivors assessed (typical RR 0.67, 95% CI 0.27 to 1.66; seven studies and 325 infants) (Analysis 6.8).
  • Cerebral palsy at the latest reported age was not significantly increased, either overall (typical RR 1.12, 95% CI 0.79 to 1.60; 15 studies and 855 infants) (Analysis 6.9) or in survivors assessed (typical RR 1.12, 95% CI 0.79 to 1.58; 15 studies and 591 infants) (Analysis 6.12). Cerebral palsy was not significantly increased in studies limited to the first three years of life (typical RR 1.06, 95% CI 0.76 to 1.50; 11 studies and 777 infants) (Analysis 6.9). The combined rate of either death or cerebral palsy at the latest reported age was not significantly decreased (typical RR 0.95, 95% CI 0.77 to 1.16; 15 studies and 855 infants) (Analysis 6.11). The combined rate of death or cerebral palsy was little affected in studies limited to the first three years of life (typical RR 0.92, 95% CI 0.76 to 1.12; 14 studies and 876 infants)(Analysis 6.11). There was weak evidence for publication bias ona funnel plot for the outcome death or cerebral palsy (Figure 4).
  • Major neurosensory disability was not significantly increased, either overall (typical RR 1.17, 95% CI 0.85 to 1.60; eight studies and 655 infants) (Analysis 6.13) or in survivors assessed (typical RR 1.10, 95% CI 0.81 to 1.50; eight studies and 480 infants) (Analysis 6.16). The combined rate of either death or major neurosensory disability was not significantly increased (typical RR 1.04, 95% CI 0.86 to 1.26; eight studies and 655 infants) (Analysis 6.15).
  • There was an increased rate of abnormal neurological examination overall (typical RR 1.81, 95% CI 1.05 to 3.11; typical RD 0.13, 95% CI 0.02 to 0.24; four studies and 200 infants) (Analysis 6.17), but the clinical importance of this finding is unclear in the absence of important increases in either cerebral palsy or major neurosensory disability. The rate of the combined outcome of death or abnormal neurological examination was not significantly different (typical RR 0.96, 95% CI 0.71 to 1.31; four studies and 200 infants) (Analysis 6.19).
  • In the one study reporting re-hospitalisation rate over the first five years, there was no significant difference (Analysis 6.21;Analysis 6.22) . In the same study with follow-up to five years, in survivors there were non-significant increases in maternal reports of wheezing (RR 1.47, 95% CI 0.82 to 2.64; one study and 74 infants) (Analysis 7.1), need for corrective lenses (RR 1.61, 95% CI 0.82 to 3.13; one study and 74 infants) (Analysis 7.2) and need for physical therapy (RR 1.49, 95% CI 0.71 to 3.11; one study and 74 infants) (Analysis 7.3); need for speech therapy was non-significantly decreased (RR 0.46, 95% CI 0.21 to 1.02; one study and 74 infants) (Analysis 7.4).
  • There were no substantial differences between groups for other outcomes in later childhood, including IQ, respiratory health or function, blood pressure or growth, with the exception of a significant reduction in the rates of children with a FEV1 < -2 SD (typical RR 0.58, 95% CI 0.36 to 0.94; two studies and 187 infants) (Analysis 8.2).

There were, however, few outcomes with more than one study reporting results.

Results of individual trials

Ariagno 1987: Total respiratory system compliance improved in the dexamethasone group (P < 0.05). Time from initiation of treatment to first extubation was shorter for the dexamethasone group (six versus 45 days; P = 0.0006), but the time to final extubation was not significantly different (30 versus 48 days). There were 10 deaths, five in the dexamethasone group and five in the control group, all occurring after the treatment period. Proportional weight gain was greater in control infants (P < 0.003) during treatment. Five dexamethasone-treated infants had infections compared to two in the control group. Hyperglycaemia and hypertension were similar in each group.

At follow-up cerebral palsy was detected in one child in the dexamethasone group at 36 months of age and three controls at 12 months of age.

Avery 1985: Sequential analysis exceeded the criterion (P < 0.005) when seven consecutive untied pairs showed weaning with dexamethasone and failure to wean in control infants. Pulmonary compliance improved by 64% in the treated group and 5% in the control group (P < 0.01). No significant inter-group differences were noted in mortality, length of hospital stay, sepsis, hypertension, hyperglycaemia or electrolyte abnormalities.

Brozanski 1995: At 36 weeks' postmenstrual age there was both a significant increase in survival rates without oxygen supplementation (17/39 versus 7/39; P = 0.03), and a significant decrease in the incidence of chronic lung disease (46% versus 23%; P = 0.047) in the group that received pulse dexamethasone therapy. Supplemental oxygen requirements were also less throughout the study period in the dexamethasone group (P = 0.013). Mortality and the durations of supplemental oxygen, ventilator support and hospital stay did not differ significantly between groups. There was an increased need for insulin therapy for hyperglycaemia in the dexamethasone group (P < 0.05).

At follow-up there was no significant difference between groups in the rate of cerebral palsy in survivors assessed (20% versus 21%). The rate of death or survival with cerebral palsy in children randomised was lower in the dexamethasone group (23% versus 33%), but the difference was not statistically significant. The mean Mental Developmental Index (MDI) was 89.5 (standard deviation (SD) 23.7) in the dexamethasone group and 80.8 (SD 26.0) in controls, a non-significant difference.

CDTG 1991: Dexamethasone treatment significantly reduced the duration of assisted ventilation among infants who were ventilator-dependent at entry (median days for survivors, 11 versus 17.5). There were no statistically significant differences between the total groups of survivors in time receiving supplemental oxygen and length of stay in hospital, although the trend favoured the dexamethasone group. Twenty-five infants in each group died prior to hospital discharge; most were ventilator-dependent at trial entry. Open treatment with steroids was later given to 18% of the dexamethasone group and 43% of the placebo group (P < 0.001). There was little evidence of serious side effects and in particular infection rates were similar in the two groups.

At follow-up there were no clear differences between the randomised groups for outcome at three years in the original study. This conclusion held when the data for cerebral palsy, blindness and deafness were updated on the basis of results obtained at 13 to 17 years of age. Rates of intellectual impairment and moderate and severe disability at 13 to 17 years of age were similar in both groups, and there were no substantial differences in lung function or growth z-scores, or in the proportions with high blood pressure.

Cummings 1989: Infants in the 42-day dexamethasone group, but not those in the 18-day group, were weaned from mechanical ventilation significantly faster than controls (medians 29, 73 and 84 days, respectively; P < 0.05) and from supplemental oxygen (medians 65, 190 and 136 days, respectively P < 0.05). No clinical complications of steroid administration were noted.

At follow-up, combining both dexamethasone groups, there were no significant differences between dexamethasone treated and control children for rates of cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, major neurosensory disability in survivors, for death or survival with cerebral palsy, or for death or survival with major disability in those randomised. Neurological status was confirmed at four years of age for all children (Cummings 2002). There was no significant difference in psychometric test scores at either 15 months or four years of age. Between 4 and 15 years, one child in the 18-day group had died, leaving 22 survivors, all of whom (100%) were assessed at 15 years of age. There were no significant differences between the dexamethasone groups combined and the placebo group for any of the major neurological outcomes, growth or respiratory function.

Doyle 2006: Substantially more infants were extubated successfully by 10 days in the dexamethasone group than controls (odds ratio (OR) 11.2, 95% confidence interval (CI) 3.2 to 39.0; P < 0.001). Twelve of 21 dexamethasone-treated infants were re-intubated after initial extubation compared with one of four placebo-treated infants. Mortality was reduced but not significantly in the dexamethasone group (OR 0.52, 0.14 to 1.95; P = 0.33) and the same was true for bronchopulmonary dysplasia among survivors (OR 0.58, 0.08 to 3.32; P = 0.71). The combined rates of death or bronchopulmonary dysplasia (86% versus 91%; P = 0.45) and death or severe bronchopulmonary dysplasia (34% versus 46%; P = 0.33) were not different between groups. During the first 10 days mean airway pressure (MAP), peak inspiratory pressure and inspired oxygen concentration all decreased significantly in the dexamethasone group compared with the placebo group. There were no differences between groups in rates of high blood glucose levels or high blood pressure. Open-label use of corticosteroids, sepsis, necrotising enterocolitis, patent ductus arteriosus and severe retinopathy of prematurity were similar for the two groups. No infant had gastrointestinal perforation or bleeding. One infant in the placebo group had cardiac hypertrophy but none in the dexamethasone group.

At follow-up, the rates of cerebral palsy, blindness and deafness, of Bayley MDI or Psychomotor Developmental Index (PDI) < -1 SD, or major neurological disability were similar in the two groups, as were combined rates of death or cerebral palsy, or death or major disability.

Durand 1995: There were significant differences in compliance and tidal volume in the dexamethasone group compared with the control group (P < 0.001). Dexamethasone also significantly decreased inspired oxygen concentration and MAP (both P < 0.001) and facilitated successful weaning from mechanical ventilation. Chronic lung disease (supplemental oxygen at 36 weeks' postmenstrual age, chest radiograph changes) was also significantly decreased in the dexamethasone group (2/21 versus 8/17; P < 0.01). Survival with chronic lung disease was also better in the dexamethasone group (19/23 versus 9/20; P < 0.02). Except for a transient increase in blood pressure and plasma glucose there was no evidence of adverse effects of treatment. There were no significant differences in rates of infection, intraventricular haemorrhage and retinopathy of prematurity. Thirteen infants in the control group subsequently received dexamethasone.

Harkavy 1989: Dexamethasone treatment reduced the age at extubation (39.4 days versus 57.2 days) compared with placebo. Average oxygen requirements of the steroid-treated group were significantly lower during the first 10 days of treatment but there were no significant differences in age when weaned to room air (74.9 days versus 95.5 days), age at discharge (111 days versus 119 days) or number of deaths (1 (11%) versus 2 (17%)) between the groups. Dexamethasone therapy was associated with a significantly increased incidence of hyperglycaemia (89% versus 8%; P = 0.01) but did not influence significantly the incidence of hypertension, intraventricular haemorrhage, infection or retinopathy of prematurity. Steroid-treated infants also had a significant delay in weight gain (P < 0.02) during the first three weeks of treatment.

At follow-up, of the small number of children followed, cerebral palsy was diagnosed in one of three children in the dexamethasone group, and two of three controls.

Kari 1993: At the age of 28 days pulmonary outcome was significantly better in girls treated with dexamethasone but not in all infants. There was no significant difference between the groups in long-term outcome, except for a shorter duration of supplemental oxygen in the dexamethasone-treated female infants. After one week of dexamethasone treatment there was a significant but short-lived suppression of basal cortisol concentrations and the adrenal response to ACTH. No serious side effects were observed.

At follow-up, in the one hospital with follow-up data, there were no significant differences between dexamethasone and control children in the rates of mortality, cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness or major neurological disability, or of death or survival with cerebral palsy, or of death or survival with major neurological disability in those randomised. At seven to nine years of age, there was some improvement in lung function in eight steroid-treated children compared with seven controls. There were no substantial differences in height or weight between steroid and placebo groups, but the data were not reported in a form to allow for meta-analysis. No children had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Kazzi 1990: Infants who received dexamethasone required less oxygen on days eight and 17 (P < 0.005) and were more likely to be extubated eight days after therapy (8/12 versus 3/11; P < 0.05, P = 0.12 after Yates correction) compared with infants in the control group. Dexamethasone significantly shortened the duration of mechanical ventilation (median 4 versus 22 days, P < 0.05), but there was no evidence of effect on the durations of oxygen therapy, hospitalisation or home oxygen therapy, or on the occurrence and severity of retinopathy of prematurity, rate of growth or mortality.

Kothadia 1999: Infants treated with dexamethasone were on assisted ventilation and supplemental oxygen for fewer days after study entry (median days on ventilator, 5th and 95th centiles, 13 (1 to 64) versus 25 (6 to 104); days on oxygen, 59 (6 to 247) versus 100 (11 to 346)). No significant differences were found in rates of death, infection or severe retinopathy of prematurity.

At one-year follow-up, more surviving dexamethasone-treated infants had cerebral palsy (24% versus 7%) and abnormal neurological examination (42% versus 18%). However, deaths before one year were more frequent in the placebo group (26%) than in the dexamethasone group (12%); thus, the rates of the combined outcome, death or cerebral palsy at one year, were not significantly different (dexamethasone 33%, placebo 31%). There was an additional child in the placebo group with cerebral palsy at age four to six years. There was a higher risk of cerebral palsy in surviving dexamethasone-treated children at four to six years of age, although cognitive, functional and medical outcomes were not significantly different between treated and non-treated survivors. The combined outcome, death or cerebral palsy, was also similar at four- to six-year follow-up. There were no substantial differences in rates of asthma, or in blood pressure or growth. Between 8 to 11 years of age there were fewer in the dexamethasone group with a low value for forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) (dexamethasone 40%, placebo 68%).

Kovacs 1998: Mortality in hospital was not significantly different in the two groups (27% dexamethasone versus 17% controls). Steroid-treated infants required less ventilatory support between nine and 17 days of age and less supplemental oxygen between eight and 10 days of age. They also had better pulmonary compliance at 10 days but all these improvements were not maintained over the ensuing weeks compared with controls. The incidences of chronic lung disease at 28 days and 36 weeks' postmenstrual age in survivors were also not significantly different between the groups (80% versus 87% at 28 days; 45% versus 56% at 36 weeks' postmenstrual age). Other than transient glycosuria there was no evidence of steroid-related adverse effects.

At follow-up there were no significant differences between dexamethasone-treated and control children in rates of cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, major neurosensory disability in survivors assessed, or in death or survival with cerebral palsy, or in death or survival with major disability in those randomised.

Noble-Jamieson 1989: Dexamethasone-treated infants showed more rapid improvement in ventilation requirements during the first week of treatment, although the overall duration of oxygen therapy was similar in both groups. Cranial ultrasound examination revealed new periventricular abnormalities in three out of the five dexamethasone-treated infants who had previously normal scans, compared with none of four placebo-treated infants.

Ohlsson 1992: Dexamethasone facilitated weaning from assisted ventilation (P = 0.015). The incidence of infection was not significantly increased although glycosuria (P = 0.0002) and systolic blood pressure (P = 0.003) were increased, and heart rate (P = 0.0001) and weight gain (P = 0.0002) were decreased in the dexamethasone-treated group.

At follow-up in survivors, cerebral palsy was diagnosed in one of 11 children in the dexamethasone group, and three of 13 controls.

Papile 1998: Since infants in the early group were given dexamethasone from 14 days they can be considered as having been treated late by our definition (> 7 days of age). If only 28-day outcomes are examined then babies in this study's late group can be considered as controls as they did not receive dexamethasone until after 28 days. Twenty-eight day mortality was 7/182 in the early group (treated) compared with 16/189 in the late group (controls). Oxygen was required on day 28 in 141/182 versus 168/189 and the combination of 28-day mortality or oxygen requirement was 147/182 versus 184/189, the latter being significant (P < 0.001). It is not possible to use long-term follow-up data in this meta-analysis as all infants were eligible for dexamethasone after 28 days.

Parikh 2013: There were no substantial differences in brain tissue volumes between the groups. Low-dose hydrocortisone had little effect on any of the other outcomes reported, including mortality, chronic lung disease and acute complications.

Romagnoli 1998: Treated infants showed an increase in dynamic respiratory compliance and there was a decreased incidence of chronic lung disease both at 28 days of age and 36 weeks' postmenstrual age. Dexamethasone-treated infants had a lower weight gain during treatment and a significantly higher incidence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy compared with controls. There were no significant differences between the groups as regards the incidences of hypertension, sepsis, necrotising enterocolitis or hyperglycaemia.

At follow-up there were no significant differences between dexamethasone-treated and control children for rates of cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness or intellectual impairment in survivors assessed, or of death or survival with cerebral palsy in those randomised.

Scott 1997: The cortisol responses to ACTH were lower in the dexamethasone group compared with the placebo group. On day 28 of life eight of 10 infants in the dexamethasone group no longer required assisted ventilation, compared with none of five in the placebo group (P = 0.04, as reported by the authors).

Vento 2004: Six dexamethasone-treated infants and five control infants were extubated within seven days. There were no significant differences between groups as regards respiratory distress syndrome, patent ductus arteriosus or severe intraventricular haemorrhage (grades 3 or 4). There were lower absolute cell counts (P less than/or equal to 0.05) and proportion of polymorphonuclear cells (P < 0.001) in tracheal aspirate fluid in the treated group on day seven. Treated infants also had an increase in dynamic pulmonary compliance, which was significant compared with the control group at seven days (P < 0.05). While there was no significant difference between the groups as regards inspired oxygen concentration, infants in the dexamethasone group had significantly lower MAP on day seven (P < 0.05).

Vincer 1998: Two of 11 dexamethasone-treated infants died before hospital discharge compared with one of nine control infants. The number of days when infants had apneic spells (14 versus 2; P = 0.005) was greater in the dexamethasone-treated group. There was a trend towards more retinopathy of prematurity in the dexamethasone group (64% versus 22%; P = 0.064), but all other outcome variables were similar between groups.

At follow-up in survivors cerebral palsy was diagnosed in four of nine children in the dexamethasone group and two of eight controls.

Walther 2003: MAP on the first day of life was higher in the control group than in the dexamethasone group (9.1 versus 7.5 cm water; P < 0.05). More infants in the dexamethasone group were successfully extubated within 7 to 14 days than in the placebo group (P < 0.05). Hyperglycaemia occurred more frequently in the dexamethasone group (P < 0.05) and infants in the control group more often received open-label dexamethasone (P < 0.05). The incidences of hypertension, sepsis, necrotising enterocolitis, spontaneous gastrointestinal perforation, gastrointestinal bleeding, intraventricular haemorrhage or periventricular leukomalacia were not significantly different between groups. Similarly, there were no significant differences in durations of ventilation or oxygen, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, mortality or survival without bronchopulmonary dysplasia between groups. Two infants in the control group were discharged home on oxygen.

Discussion

In infants with chronic lung disease corticosteroids improve respiratory compliance (Avery 1985; Ariagno 1987), and reduce the need for oxygen supplementation (Harkavy 1989; Kazzi 1990), but there is no evidence of effect on duration of hospitalisation. Steroids facilitate extubation in ventilator-dependent infants from seven days up to 28 days after treatment. In this review we found a significant reduction in neonatal mortality with a number needed to treat of 17 (95% confidence interval (CI) 10 to 100). Mortality in hospital or at latest reported age was not significantly reduced. Whether corticosteroids given after the first week of life really improve the survival of infants developing chronic lung disease remains to be confirmed.

Steroids have other significant effects. They cause weight loss or poor weight gain (Ariagno 1987; Harkavy 1989; Ohlsson 1992). Although there appears to be catchup growth after steroid therapy (Gibson 1993), there are also worries about reduced brain growth in animal (Weichsel 1977; Gramsbergen 1998) and human (Papile 1998) studies. Animal studies have also shown abnormal lung growth (Tschanz 1995). The finding of a borderline statistically significant increase in severe retinopathy of prematurity in survivors was not accompanied by significant increases in either blindness or requiring corrective lenses.

In this review data on long-term neurosensory follow-up were available from 15 studies comprising 855 infants randomised, but these were of varying methodological quality. The significant increase in abnormal neurological examination in those randomised is of potential concern; however, this is tempered by the findings that cerebral palsy and major neurosensory disability, both overall and in survivors, were not significantly increased, and the abnormal neurological examination findings were reported in only four of the 15 follow-up studies and in only 200 participants randomised. It should be noted, however, that some of studies reporting cerebral palsy as an outcome did so early in childhood; before five years of age the diagnosis of cerebral palsy is not certain in all cases (Stanley 1982). Moreover, only one study was designed primarily to test the effect of postnatal steroids on adverse long-term neurosensory outcome (Doyle 2006), and all were underpowered to detect clinically important differences in long-term neurosensory outcome. There is concern from animal studies about possible adverse effects of corticosteroids used in these doses in early postnatal life on neurodevelopment of very immature infants (Weichsel 1977). Clearly more information on long-term outcome of infants is needed.

Clinicians must weigh the benefits of acute improvement in respiratory function and increased chances of extubation (with a possible improved survival) against the potential detrimental effects, both metabolic and neurological. Dexamethasone may be a harmful drug to the immature brain and consideration must be given to limiting its use to situations where it is essential to achieve weaning from the ventilator. Lower doses and shorter courses should be considered for these infants; the DART study, with a total dose of only 0.89 mg/kg over 10 days, was able to demonstrate acute benefits of extubation and reduced respiratory support (Doyle 2006). There are limited data on the effects of inhaled steroids in infants with chronic lung disease (La Force 1993; Giffin 1994, Shah 2007a), but this potentially useful intervention should have fewer systemic side effects and warrants further study. Further studies of low-dose systemic corticosteroids in infants at high risk of developing chronic lung disease beyond the first week of life are also warranted.

Authors' conclusions

Implications for practice

The ventilator-dependent infant with chronic lung disease after the age of seven days is at least transiently improved by a course of dexamethasone. Such treatment facilitates extubation from the ventilator and reduces the rate of chronic lung disease and the need for a later course of steroids and for home oxygen therapy. Survival to 28 days is improved but whether this is maintained overall remains to be confirmed. However, there are significant short-term side effects, including hyperglycaemia and hypertension and, more importantly, some evidence of long-term side effects, including severe retinopathy of prematurity and abnormal neurological examination. The methodological quality of the studies determining the long-term outcome is limited in some cases; surviving children have been assessed predominantly before school age, and no study has been sufficiently powered to detect important adverse long-term neurosensory outcomes. Given the evidence of both benefits and harms of treatment, and the limitations of the evidence at present, it appears prudent to reserve the use of late corticosteroids for infants who cannot be weaned from mechanical ventilation after the first week of life and to minimise the dose and duration of any course of treatment.

Implications for research

Studies are needed to examine the lowest safe dose of corticosteroid. Hydrocortisone in more physiological doses should be compared with lower doses of dexamethasone in ventilator-dependent infants, although there is little evidence of it being beneficial when used in the first week of life. It might be worth undertaking studies with other steroid drugs, such as betamethasone or methylprednisolone. There is a compelling need for long-term follow-up studies on all children who have been enrolled in randomised trials of postnatal steroids. These studies need to examine both major and more subtle (e.g. cognitive and behavioural) adverse neurological outcomes, in addition to long-term visual function. The effects of inhaled steroids also require further study. Any new studies should be designed to assess the overall risks and benefits of corticosteroids and be sufficiently powered to detect important adverse long-term neurosensory sequelae.

Acknowledgements

  • None noted.

Contributions of authors

Lex Doyle collated the data concerning long-term neurosensory outcomes; he assisted Henry Halliday and Richard Ehrenkranz in identfying all of the studies, synthesising the data, and writing some of the earlier versions of the review. Richard Ehrenkranz assisted Henry Halliday in identfying all of the studies, synthesising the data, and writing the earlier versions of the review. Henry Halliday identified all of the studies, synthesised the data, and wrote the earlier versions of this review.

Declarations of interest

Lex Doyle was Chief Investigator of the DART study, a randomised controlled trial of low-dose, short-course dexamethasone in ventilator-dependent infants, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

Henry Halliday (HLH) is a retired neonatologist. He is joint Editor-in-Chief of the journal Neonatology and sits on many Data Monitoring and Trial Steering Committees for various neonatal/perinatal trials. He has received support in the past for co-ordinating the OSECT study (2000) when Astra Zeneca (Sweden) supplied the metered dose inhalers of budesonide and placebo. HLH also acts as a consultant for Chiesi Farmiceutici (Italy), a company that sells two neonatal drugs - Curosurf (a surfactant to treat respiratory distress syndrome) and Peyona (a caffeine preparation to treat apnea of prematurity).

Differences between protocol and review

  • None noted.

Published notes

  • None noted.

[top]

Characteristics of studies

Characteristics of included studies

Ariagno 1987

Methods

Double-blind, randomised, controlled trial

Participants

34 preterm infants < 1501 g birth weight, ventilator-dependent and no weaning from mechanical ventilation at 3 weeks. CXR changes

Interventions

2 regimens were used in this study: 10-day or 7-day. 10-day: intravenous dexamethasone 1 mg/kg/day for 4 days followed by 0.5 mg/kg/day for 6 days; 7-day: 1 mg/kg/day for 3 days then 0.5 mg/kg/day for 4 days. Of the 17 dexamethasone treated-infants, 4 received the 10-day protocol and 13 the 7-day protocol
Saline placebos were used during the respective treatment periods

Outcomes

Pulmonary function tests, failure to extubate, mortality, hyperglycaemia, hypertension, infection, GI bleeding, NEC, mortality, time to extubation, rate of weight gain and head growth, need for home oxygen, duration of oxygen, ROP and CP

Notes

The results in the abstract have been updated with complete data provided by the investigators in September 2000

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Low risk

Random allocation by pharmacist

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Low risk

Blinding of randomisation: yes
Random allocation by pharmacist

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) Low risk
Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of outcome assessment: yes

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Complete follow-up: yes for outcomes measured within the first year; no for later outcomes

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

Avery 1985

Methods

Randomised controlled trial

Participants

16 infants < 1501 g birth weight, age 2 to 6 weeks who had respiratory distress syndrome but at entry radiological signs of BPD of stages 2 or 3 by Northway Classification
Exclusion for PDA, congenital heart disease, pneumonia, IV lipids within 24 hours

Interventions

Intravenous dexamethasone 0.5 mg/kg/day every 12 hours intravenously for 3 days, 0.3 mg/kg/day for 3 days decreased by 10% every 3 days
Placebo not administered

Outcomes

Pulmonary function tests, extubation within 3 days, mortality, sepsis, hypertension, hyperglycaemia and duration of hospital stay

Notes

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Unclear risk

Random allocation by opening sealed envelopes. Stratified by birth weight and sequential analysis

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Low risk

Random allocation by opening sealed envelopes. Stratified by birth weight and sequential analysis
Blinding of randomisation: yes

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) Unclear risk

Blinding of intervention: uncertain

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) Unclear risk

Blinding of intervention: uncertain

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Unclear risk

Blinding of outcome: uncertain

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Complete follow-up: yes

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

Brozanski 1995

Methods

Double-blind, randomised, controlled trial

Participants

88 infants < 1501 g who were ventilator-dependent at 7 days
Exclusions: complex congenital anomalies, pulmonary hypoplasia or haemodynamic instability

Interventions

Dexamethasone 0.25 mg/kg/day 12-hourly for 2 days, repeated every 10 days until 36 weeks' PMA or no longer needs ventilator support or supplemental oxygen. An occasional dose of study drug was administered as an intramuscular injection when intravenous access was not possible
Control infants were given an equivalent volume of saline intravenously twice daily for 3 days

Outcomes

Inspired oxygen concentration, duration of supplemental oxygen, survival without oxygen at 30 days and 34 weeks, CLD, GI bleeding, IVH, death, NEC, ROP (> stage II), hyperglycaemia, pulmonary air leak, sepsis and worsening IVH (grade > II)

Notes

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Low risk

Random allocation using sealed envelopes kept in the pharmacy. Stratified by gender and birth weight (< 1000 g versus > 1000 g)

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Low risk

Random allocation using sealed envelopes kept in the pharmacy. Stratified by gender and birth weight (< 1000 g versus > 1000 g)
Blinding of randomisation: yes

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of outcome: yes

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Unclear risk

Complete follow-up: no; results given for 78 out of 88 infants enrolled

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

CDTG 1991

Methods

Multi-centre, double-blind, randomised, controlled trial

Participants

287 preterm infants from 3 weeks of age with oxygen dependency, with or without mechanical ventilation whose condition was static or deteriorating over the preceding week
Exclusion of major malformations

Interventions

Dexamethasone 0.6 mg/kg/day for 1 week intravenously or orally, with an option to give a second tapering 9-day course (0.6, 0.4 and 0.2 mg/kg/day for 3 days each). If after initial improvement relapse occurred. Matching saline placebo was given intravenously (or orally if there was no intravenous line) for 1 week

Outcomes

Duration of mechanical ventilation, death, sepsis, NEC, pneumothorax, blood pressure, plasma glucose, GI bleeding, duration of O2 and hospital stay
Cerebral palsy and blindness in survivors as assessed by questionnaires from general practitioners, health visitors and parents

Notes

Babies could be enrolled if breathing spontaneously

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Low risk

Random allocation using unmarked vials and telephone randomisation. Stratified by clinical centre and whether or not the babies were ventilator-dependent

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Low risk

Random allocation using unmarked vials and telephone randomisation. Stratified by clinical centre and whether or not the babies were ventilator-dependent
Blinding of randomisation: yes

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of outcome measurement: yes

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Survivors at 3 years were followed up. 14 infants died after discharge and follow-up information was available for 209 of the 212 infants (99% follow-up)

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

Cummings 1989

Methods

Double-blind, randomised, controlled trial

Participants

36 2-week old infants < 1251 g birth weight, < 31 weeks, needing mechanical ventilation and > 29% oxygen at entry Exclusions for PDA, renal failure and sepsis
Infants in the control group received a saline placebo

Interventions

Dexamethasone 0.5 mg/kg/day for 3 days, 0.3 mg/kg/day for 3 days, then reduced by 10% every 3 days to 0.1 mg/kg/day for 3 days, then alternate days for 2 days or 0.5 mg/kg/day for 3 days, reduced by 50% every 3 days to 0.06 mg/kg/day for 3 days, then alternate days for 7 days

Outcomes

Durations of intermittent positive pressure ventilation (IPPV), oxygen and hospital stay; rates of pneumothorax, hyperglycaemia, sepsis, GI bleeding, transfusions, ROP, mortality; growth and development.

Notes

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Low risk

Randomised allocation to 1 of 3 groups using a table of random numbers kept in the pharmacy

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Low risk

Randomised allocation to 1 of 3 groups using a table of random numbers kept in the pharmacy
Blinding of randomisation: yes

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of outcome measurement: yes

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Complete follow-up: yes
Blinding of outcome measurement: yes

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

Doyle 2006

Methods

Multi-centre, doiuble-blind, randomised controlled trial

Participants

70 infants < 28 weeks' gestation or < 1000 g birth weight, ventilator-dependent after 7 days
Exclusions: congenital neurological defects, chromosomal anomalies or other disorders likely to cause long-term neurological deficits

Interventions

A 10-day tapering course of dexamethasone (0.15 mg/kg/day for 3 days, 0.10 mg/kg/day for 3 days, 0.05 mg/kg/day for 2 days and 0.02 mg/kg/day for 2 days). Total dose of dexamethasone 0.89 mg/kg over 10 days
Control infants were given equivalent volumes of normal saline placebo
A repeat course of the same blinded drug was allowed at the discretion of the attending clinicians

Outcomes

Ventilator settings, oxygen requirements, hyperglycaemia, hypertension, growth, BPD (any oxygen at 36 weeks) severe BPD (> 30% oxygen at 36 weeks' PMA), mortality, infections, NEC, GI bleeding, PDA, ROP, cardiac hypertrophy, cranial ultrasound abnormalities. Long-term follow-up at 2 years of age by staff blinded to treatment allocation for neurological impairments and disabilities, including cerebral palsy.

Notes

Sample size estimate was 814 but study was stopped early because of slow recruitment

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Low risk

Random allocation was computer-generated centrally, independent of investigators except the statistician, and was stratified by centre, with randomly permuted blocks of 2 to 8 infants

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Low risk

Blinding of randomisation: yes

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of outcome measurement: yes

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Complete follow-up: yes

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

Durand 1995

Methods

Randomised controlled trial

Participants

43 preterm babies, 7 to 14 days old with birth weight 501 g to 1500 g, gestational age 24 to 32 weeks, needing mechanical ventilation with < 30% oxygen
Exclusions for congenital heart disease, IVH (grade IV) and multiple anomalies

Interventions

Intravenous dexamethasone 0.5 mg/kg/day for 3 days, then 0.25 mg/kg/day for 3 days and 0.10 mg/kg for 1 day
Control infants were not given a placebo

Outcomes

Pulmonary function tests, inspired oxygen concentration, ventilator settings, CLD (36 weeks' PMA), infection, ROP and IVH

Notes

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Unclear risk

Blind drawing of random cards in sealed envelopes

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Low risk

Yes

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) High risk

Blinding of intervention: no

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) High risk

Blinding of intervention: no

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) High risk

Blinding of outcome measurement: only for respiratory mechanics

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Complete follow-up: almost (43 of 44 randomised)

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

Harkavy 1989

Methods

Double-blind, randomised, controlled trial

Participants

21 preterm infants with ventilator and O2 dependency at 30 days

Interventions

Dexamethasone 0.5 mg/kg/day every 12 hours for 2 weeks either intravenously or orally
Saline placebo given to controls

Outcomes

Inspired oxygen concentration, duration of oxygen, mortality, hypertension, hyperglycaemia, infection and ROP

Notes

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Low risk

Random allocation in the pharmacy using cards of random numbers

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Low risk

Allocation concealment: yes

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of outcome: yes

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Complete follow-up: yes

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

Kari 1993

Methods

Multi-centre, double-blind, randomised, controlled trial

Participants

41 preterm infants 10 days old, weighing < 1500 g and with gestational age > 23 weeks, and ventilator-dependent. Exclusions for PDA, sepsis, GI bleeding and major malformation

Interventions

Dexamethasone 0.5 mg/kg/day given intravenously 12-hourly for 7 days
Infants in the control group received normal saline as a placebo

Outcomes

BPD, duration of IPPV, hypertension, hyperglycaemia, sepsis, perforated colon, cryotherapy for ROP

Notes

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Unclear risk

Random allocation: method not stated

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Low risk

Allocation concealment: yes

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of outcome measurement: yes

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Complete follow-up: yes

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

Kazzi 1990

Methods

Double-blind, randomised, controlled trial

Participants

23 preterm infants, 3 to 4 weeks old who weighed < 1501 g at birth with radiological findings of BPD and needing mechanical ventilation in > 34% oxygen; failure of medical treatment
Exclusion for PDA, pneumonia, sepsis and hypertension

Interventions

Dexamethasone 0.5 mg/kg/day for 3 days, 0.4 mg/kg/day for 2 days, 0.25 mg/kg/day for 2 days, given by nasogastric tube as a single daily dose, then hydrocortisone every 6 hours for 10 days
Infants in the control group received equal volumes of saline

Outcomes

Inspired oxygen concentration, ventilator settings, extubation < 9 days, hyperglycaemia, sepsis, hypertension, ROP, durations of oxygen, mechanical ventilation and hospital stay

Notes

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Low risk

Random allocation by drawing a card prepared from random number tables in the pharmacy, stratified for birth weight (< 1000 g, 1000 g to 1250 g and 1251 g to 1500 g)

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Low risk

Allocation conceallment: yes

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of outcome: yes

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Complete follow-up: yes

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

Kothadia 1999

Methods

Double-blind, randomised, controlled trial

Participants

118 preterm infants, < 1501 g age 15 to 25 days, ventilator-dependent over 30% oxygen, no PDA, major malformation, HIV or Hepatitis B virus infection

Interventions

42-day tapering course of dexamethasone or an equal volume of normal saline. Dexamethasone 0.25 mg/kg 12-hourly for 3 days, 0.15 mg/kg 12-hourly for 3 days, then a 10% reduction in dose every 3 days until a dose of 0.1 mg/kg had been given for 3 days, from which time 0.1 mg/kg every other day until 42 days after entry

Outcomes

Duration of ventilation, oxygen, hospital stay; death, oxygen at 36 weeks' PMA, ROP (stage 3), infection, hypertension and hyperglycaemia
Follow-up: Bayley MDI and PDI, cerebral palsy, abnormal neurological examination

Notes

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Low risk

Random allocation within 6 strata according to birth weight (500 g to 800 g, 801 g to 1100 g and 1101 g to 1500 g) and gender. Method not stated

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Low risk

Random allocation within 6 strata according to birth weight (500 g to 800 g, 801 g to 1100 g and 1101 g to 1500 g) and gender. Method not stated
Blinding of randomisation: yes

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of outcome: yes

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Complete follow-up: yes for outcomes measured within first year; no for outcomes at 5 or more years

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

Kovacs 1998

Methods

Double-blind, randomised, controlled trial

Participants

60 ventilator-dependent infants of < 30 weeks' gestation and < 1501 g birth weight

Interventions

Dexamethasone given systemically in a dose of 0.25 mg/kg twice daily for 3 days followed by nebulised budesonide 500 µg twice daily for 18 days
Control infants received systemic and inhaled saline placebos

Outcomes

Survival to discharge, ventilatory support between 9 and 17 days, supplemental oxygen between 8 and 10 days, pulmonary compliance at 10 days, elastase/albumin ratios in tracheal aspirates, need for rescue dexamethasone, time to extubation, duration of oxygen in survivors, CLD at 36 weeks' PMA in survivors, duration of hospital stay

Notes

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Low risk

Random allocation in pharmacy, with stratification by gestational age (22 to 26 weeks versus 27 to 29 weeks)

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Low risk

Allocation concealment: yes

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of outcome measurement: yes

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Complete follow-up: yes

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

Noble-Jamieson 1989

Methods

Double-blind, randomised, controlled trial

Participants

18 preterm infants over 4 weeks old and needing < 30% oxygen
Exclusion for congenital anomalies, infection, gastric erosion and NEC

Interventions

Dexamethasone 0.5 mg/kg/day for 7 days either orally or intravenously, 0.25 mg/kg/day for 7 days, 0.1 mg/kg/day for 7 days Saline placebo given to controls

Outcomes

Inspired oxygen concentration, duration of oxygen, leucocytosis, cranial ultrasound scan

Notes

Spontaneously breathing infants could be enrolled

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Unclear risk

Random allocation: method not stated

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Unclear risk

Blinding of randomisation: not clear

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of outcome measurement: yes

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Complete follow-up: yes

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

Ohlsson 1992

Methods

Double-blind, randomised, controlled trial

Participants

25 preterm infants, 21 to 35 days old, weighing < 1501 g birth weight and needing mechanical ventilation > 29% O2. Chest radiograph consistent with CLD
Exclusion for infection, congenital anomalies, PDA, NEC, GI bleeding or perforation

Interventions

Dexamethasone 0.5 mg/kg twice daily for 3 days, followed by 0.25 mg/kg twice daily for 3 days and 0.125 mg/kg twice daily for 3 days intravenously
Intravenous placebo was not permitted by Ethics Committee. Sham injection of saline was given into the bed in the control group by a physician not involved in the respiratory care of the infant or in the study. A band aid was affixed to a possible site for intravenous infusion

Outcomes

Extubation < 7 days, change in chest radiograph, blood pressure, full blood picture, perforation of stomach, severe ROP, death

Notes

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Unclear risk

Random allocation in pharmacy using sealed envelopes

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Low risk

Allocation concealment: yes

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) Unclear risk

Blinding of intervention: probably, because control group received a sham injection by staff not involved in the trial

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) Unclear risk

Blinding of intervention: probably

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Unclear risk

Blinding of outcome: attempted

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Complete follow-up: yes

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

Papile 1998

Methods

Multi-centre, double-blind, randomised, controlled trial

Participants

371 very low birth weight (501 g to 1500 g) infants who were ventilator-dependent at 2 weeks of age and had respiratory index scores (MAP x FiO2) greater than/or equal to 2.4, which had been increasing or minimally decreasing in the previous 48 hours or a score greater than/or equal to 4.0 even if there had been improvement in the preceding 48 hours
Exclusions if received steroid treatment after birth, signs of sepsis as judged by treating physician, or major congenital anomaly of cardiovascular, pulmonary or central nervous systems

Interventions

Dexamethasone 0.50 mg/kg/day intravenously or orally for 5 days, followed by 0.30 mg/kg/day for 3 days, then 0.14 mg/kg/day for 3 days and finally 0.06 mg/kg/day for 3 days making a total period of 2 weeks followed by placebo for 2 weeks
Control group did not receive dexamethasone until after 4 weeks. From 2 to 4 weeks they received a saline placebo

Outcomes

28-day mortality, need for oxygen at 28 days and 28-day mortality and/or oxygen at 28 days

Notes

This was described as an early (2 weeks) versus late (4 weeks) dexamethasone study. Infants in the early group were considered to have late steroid treatment according to our definition (> 7 days) whereas infants in the "late" group served as controls for 28-day outcomes before dexamethasone treatment started

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Low risk

Random allocation in each centre's pharmacy by the urn method to promote equal distribution of participants between treatment groups

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Low risk

Allocation concealment: yes

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of outcome measurements: yes

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Complete follow-up: yes

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

Parikh 2013

Methods

Double-blind, randomised, controlled trial

Participants

64 infants with birth weight < 1001 g, ventilator-dependent between 10 to 21 days of age with a respiratory index greater than/or equal to 2 with estimated 75% risk of developing CLD

Interventions

Hydrocortisone total of 17 mg/kg over 7 days (3 mg/kg/day for 4 days, 2 mg/kg/day for 2 days and 1 mg/kg/day for 1 day) Identical volume saline placebo

Outcomes

Main outcomes was brain tissue volumes on MRI at term-equivalent age
Other outcomes included mortality, BPD and acute complications

Notes

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Unclear risk

Random allocation by an individual not involved with the study. Birth weight (<= 750 g versus 751 g to 1000 g) and respiratory index score (2 to 4 versus >4) strata

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Low risk

Allocation concealment: yes

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of outcome measurement: yes

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Complete follow-up: yes

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

Romagnoli 1998

Methods

Randomised controlled trial

Participants

30 preterm infants, oxygen- and ventilator-dependent on 10th day and at high risk of CLD by authors' own scoring system (90% risk)

Interventions

Dexamethasone 0.50 mg/kg/day for 6 days, 0.25 mg/kg/day for 6 days and 0.125 mg/kg/day for 3 days (total dose 4.75 mg/kg) from 10th day intravenously. Control group received no placebo.

Outcomes

Failure to extubate at 28 days, CLD (28 days and 36 weeks' PMA), infection, hyperglycaemia, hypertension, PDA, severe IVH, NEC, received late steroids, severe ROP, left ventricular hypertrophy

Notes

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Unclear risk

Random allocation using numbered sealed envelopes

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Low risk

Alloocation concealment: yes

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) High risk

Blinding of intervention: no

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) High risk

Blinding of intervention: no

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Unclear risk

Blinding of outcome measurement: cannot tell

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Complete follow-up: yes

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

Scott 1997

Methods

Double-blind, randomised, controlled trial

Participants

15 infants ventilator-dependent between 11 and 14 days of age with a FiO2 > 0.60

Interventions

Dexamethasone 0.5 mg/kg/day for 2 days, then 0.3 mg/kg/day for 3 days (total dose 1.9 mg/kg)
Identical volume saline placebo

Outcomes

Main outcomes was cortisol response to ACTH
Other outcomes included mortality and acute complications

Notes

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Low risk

Random allocation using a random number table

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Unclear risk

Allocation concealment: yes

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of outcome measurement: yes

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Complete follow-up: yes

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

Vento 2004

Methods

Randomised controlled trial

Participants

20 infants < 12501 g birth weight and < 33 weeks' gestational age who were oxygen-dependent on 10th day of life
Exclusions not specified

Interventions

Intravenous dexamethasone 0.50 mg/kg/day for 3 days, 0.25 mg/kg/day for 3 days and 0.125 mg/kg/day for 1 day (total dose 2.375 mg/kg).
The control group received no steroid treatment.

Outcomes

Tracheal aspirate fluid cell counts, pulmonary mechanics, extubation during the study, PDA and IVH (> grade II)

Notes

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Unclear risk

Random allocation: method not specified

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Unclear risk

Allocation concealment: unclear

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) Unclear risk

Blinding of intervention: not clear

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) Unclear risk

Blinding of intervention: not clear

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Unclear risk

Blinding of outcome measurements: not clear

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Complete follow-up: yes

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

Vincer 1998

Methods

Double-blind, randomised, controlled trial

Participants

20 very low birth weight infants who were ventilator-dependent at 28 days postnatal age

Interventions

Either a 6-day course of intravenous dexamethasone 0.50 mg/kg/day for 3 days followed by 0.30 mg/kg/day for the final 3 days
Equal volume of saline placebo

Outcomes

Mortality, median number of days ventilated after treatment, days of apneic spells, length of hospital stay, weight and head circumference at 2 years, corrected MDI, retinopathy of prematurity, cerebral palsy in survivors and blindness in survivors

Notes

Published as an abstract only

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Unclear risk

Random assignment: method not stated

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Unclear risk

Allocation concealment: unclear

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) Unclear risk

Blinding of intervention: probably

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) Unclear risk

Blinding of intervention: probably

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of outcome measurements: yes

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Complete follow-up: yes

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk

Walther 2003

Methods

Double-blind, randomised, controlled trial

Participants

36 infants of gestation 24 to 32 weeks and birth weight > 599 g with respiratory distress syndrome requiring mechanical ventilation with > 29% oxygen or respiratory index (MAP x inspired oxygen) > 1.9 and ventilator rate > 16/min on day 7 to 14 after birth
Exclusions: sepsis, congenital heart disease, hypertension, unstable clinical status (renal failure, grade IV IVH) and multiple congenital anomalies

Interventions

14-day course of dexamethasone (0.20 mg/kg/day for 4 days, 0.15 mg/kg/day for 4 days, 0.10 mg/kg/day for 4 days and 0.05 mg/kg/day for 2 days). Total dose of dexamethasone 1.9 mg/kg over 14 days
Control infants received equivalent amounts of normal saline placebo

Outcomes

Ventilator settings, MAP, inspired oxygen concentration, extubation within 7 to 14 days, hyperglycaemia, hypertension, serum cortisol, received late dexamethasone, BPD (oxygen at 36 weeks' PMA) and survival without BPD

Notes

Risk of bias table
Bias Authors' judgement Support for judgement
Random sequence generation (selection bias) Low risk

Random allocation by staff pharmacist with investigators and clinicians unaware of treatment assignment

Allocation concealment (selection bias) Low risk

Allocation concealment: yes

Blinding (performance bias and detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of participants and personnel (performance bias) Low risk

Blinding of intervention: yes

Blinding of outcome assessment (detection bias) Low risk

Blinding of outcome measurements: yes

Incomplete outcome data (attrition bias) Low risk

Complete follow-up: yes

Selective reporting (reporting bias) Unclear risk
Footnotes

BPD: bronchopulmonary dysplasia
CLD: chronic disease
CP: cerebral palsy
CXR: chest X-ray
FiO2: fraction of inspired oxygen
GI: gastrointestinal
IVH: intraventricular haemorrhage
IV: intravenous
MAP: mean airway pressure
MDI: Mental Developmental Index
MRI: magnetic resonance imaging
NEC: necrotising enterocolitis
PDA: patent ductus arteriosus
PDI: Psychomotor Developmental Index
PMA: postmenstrual age
ROP: retinopathy of prematurity

Characteristics of excluded studies

Anttila 2005

Reason for exclusion

Early neonatal dexamethasone treatment for prevention of bronchopulmonary dysplasia - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Armstrong 2002

Reason for exclusion

Follow-up study of 2 different dexamethasone regimens without an untreated control group

Ashton 1994

Reason for exclusion

No clinical outcomes were assessed

Baden 1972

Reason for exclusion

Controlled trial of hydrocortisone therapy in infants with respiratory distress syndrome - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Batton 2012

Reason for exclusion

Feasibility study of early blood pressure management in extremely preterm infants - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Biswas 2003

Reason for exclusion

Pulmonary effects of triiodothyronine (T3) and hydrocortisone (HC) supplementation in preterm infants less than 30 weeks' gestation - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Bloomfield 1998

Reason for exclusion

2 different courses of dexamethasone were compared and there was no placebo control group

Bonsante 2007

Reason for exclusion

Randomised, placebo-controlled trial of early low-dose hydrocortisone in very preterm infants - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Couser 1992

Reason for exclusion

Dexamethasone was given only to facilitate extubation and no long-term data were reported

Cranefield 2004

Reason for exclusion

2 dexamethasone regimens were compared without an untreated control group

Durand 2002

Reason for exclusion

2 different courses of dexamethasone were compared without a placebo control group

Efird 2005

Reason for exclusion

Randomised controlled trial of prophylactic hydrocortisone supplementation for the prevention of hypotension in extremely low birth weight infants - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Ferrara 1990

Reason for exclusion

A single dose of intravenous dexamethasone given prior to extubation with no long-term outcome data reported

Garland 1999

Reason for exclusion

Randomised controlled trial of a 3-day course of dexamethasone therapy to prevent chronic lung disease in ventilated neonates - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Groneck 1993

Reason for exclusion

No clinical outcomes were reported

Halac 1990

Reason for exclusion

Controlled trial of prenatal and postnatal corticosteroid therapy to prevent neonatal necrotising enterocolitis - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Kopelman 1999

Reason for exclusion

A single very early dexamethasone dose improves respiratory and cardiovascular adaptation in preterm infants - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Lin 1999

Reason for exclusion

Prevention of chronic lung disease in preterm infants by early postnatal dexamethasone therapy - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Mammel 1983

Reason for exclusion

This was a randomised trial with a cross-over design so that all infants were treated at some time with dexamethasone

Merz 1999

Reason for exclusion

Dexamethasone was started at either 7 or 14 days with no placebo control group

Mukhopadhyay 1998

Reason for exclusion

Role of early postnatal dexamethasone in respiratory distress syndrome - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Ng 2006

Reason for exclusion

Double-blind randomised controlled study of a stress dose of hydrocortisone for rescue treatment of refractory hypotension in preterm infants - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Odd 2004

Reason for exclusion

2 dexamethasone regimens were compared without an untreated control group

Peltoniemi 2005

Reason for exclusion

Trial of early neonatal hydrocortisone administration for the prevention of bronchopulmonary dysplasia in high-risk infants - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Rastogi 1996

Reason for exclusion

Randomised controlled trial of dexamethasone to prevent bronchopulmonary dysplasia in surfactant-treated infants - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Romagnoli 1999

Reason for exclusion

Controlled trial of early dexamethasone treatment for the prevention of chronic lung disease in preterm infants - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Sanders 1994

Reason for exclusion

2 doses of early intravenous dexamethasone for the prevention of bronchopulmonary dysplasia in babies with respiratory distress syndrome - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review

Shinwell 1996

Reason for exclusion

Early postnatal dexamethasone treatment to prevent chronic lung disease in infants with respiratory distress syndrome - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Sinkin 2000

Reason for exclusion

Early dexamethasone - attempting to prevent chronic lung disease - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Soll 1999

Reason for exclusion

Early postnatal dexamethasone therapy for the prevention of chronic lung disease - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Stark 2001

Reason for exclusion

Randomised trial of early dexamethasone to prevent death or chronic lung disease in extremely low birth weight infants - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Subhedar 1997

Reason for exclusion

Open randomised controlled trial of inhaled nitric oxide and early dexamethasone in high-risk preterm infants - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Suske 1996

Reason for exclusion

Early postnatal dexamethasone therapy on ventilator dependency in surfactant-substituted preterm infants - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Tapia 1998

Reason for exclusion

Early dexamethasone administration on bronchopulmonary dysplasia in preterm infants with respiratory distress syndrome - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Wang 1996

Reason for exclusion

Measurement of pulmonary status and surfactant protein levels during dexamethasone treatment of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Watterberg 2004

Reason for exclusion

Prophylaxis of early adrenal insufficiency to prevent bronchopulmonary dysplasia: a multicentre trial - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Wilson 1988

Reason for exclusion

This study reported only short-term hormonal changes and no long-term outcome data

Yeh 1990

Reason for exclusion

Early postnatal dexamethasone therapy in premature infants with severe respiratory distress syndrome: a double-blind, controlled study - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Yeh 1997

Reason for exclusion

Early postnatal dexamethasone therapy for the prevention of chronic lung disease in preterm infants with respiratory distress syndrome: a multicenter clinical trial. - in "Early (<8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants" review (Doyle 2014)

Yoder 1991

Reason for exclusion

No clinical outcomes were assessed

Characteristics of studies awaiting classification

  • None noted.

Characteristics of ongoing studies

Onland 2011

Study name

Systemic hydrocortisone to prevent bronchopulmonary dysplasia in preterm infants (the SToP-BPD study); a multicenter randomised placebo controlled trial

Methods

The SToP-BPD trial is a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled multicentre study

This trial will determine the efficacy and safety of postnatal hydrocortisone administration at a moderately early postnatal onset compared to placebo for the reduction of the combined outcome mortality and BPD at 36 weeks postmenstrual age in ventilator-dependent preterm infants.

Participants

400 very low birth weight infants (gestational age < 30 weeks and/or birth weight < 1250 g), who are ventilator-dependent at a postnatal age of 7 to 14 days

Interventions

Hydrocortisone (cumulative dose 72.5 mg/kg) or placebo is administered during a 22-day tapering schedule

Outcomes

Primary outcome measure is the combined outcome mortality or BPD at 36 weeks postmenstrual age
Secondary outcomes are short-term effects on the pulmonary condition, adverse effects during hospitalisation and long-term neurodevelopmental sequelae assessed at 2 years corrected gestational age. Analysis will be on an intention-to-treat basis

Starting date

Contact information

Notes

Trial registration number

Netherlands Trial Register (NTR): NTR2768

This trial is funded by a Project Grant from the The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development ZonMW Priority Medicines for Children no. 11-32010-02

Footnotes

BPD

Additional tables

  • None noted.

[top]

References to studies

Included studies

Ariagno 1987

* Ariagno RL, Sweeney TE, Baldwin RB, Inguillo D, Martin D. Controlled trial of dexamethasone in preterm infants at risk for bronchopulmonary dysplasia: lung function, clinical course and outcome at three years. Unpublished manuscript supplied by authors 2000.

Ariagno RL, Sweeney TJ, Baldwin RB, Inguillo D, Martin D. Dexamethasone effects on lung function and risks in 3 week old ventilatory dependent preterm infants. American Reviews of Respiratory Disease 1987;135:A125.

Ariagno RL. Personal communication. email 2000.

Avery 1985

Avery GB, Fletcher AB, Caplan M, Brudno DS. Control trial of dexamethasone in respirator-dependent infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Pediatrics 1985;75:106-11.

Brozanski 1995

* Brozanski BS, Jones JG, Gilmore CH, et al. Effect of pulse dexamethasone therapy on the incidence and severity of chronic lung disease in the very low birthweight infant. Journal of Pediatrics 1995;126:769-76.

Gilmour CH, Sentipal-Walerius JM, Jones JG, Doyle JM, Brozanski BS, Balsan MJ, et al. Pulse dexamethasone does not impair growth and body composition of very low birth weight infants. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 1995;14:455-62.

Hofkosh D, Brozanski BS, Edwards MD, et al. One year outcome of infants treated with pulse dexamethasone for prevention of BPD. Pediatric Research 1995;37:259A.

CDTG 1991

* Collaborative Dexamethasone Trial Group. Dexamethasone therapy in neonatal chronic lung disease: an international placebo-controlled trial. Pediatrics 1991;88:421-7.

Jones R, Wincott E, Elbourne D, Grant A. Controlled trial of dexamethasone in neonatal chronic lung disease: a 3 year follow-up. Pediatrics 1995;96:897-906.

Jones RA. Randomized, controlled trial of dexamethasone in neonatal chronic lung disease: 13- to 17-year follow-up study: I. Neurologic, psychological, and educational outcomes. Pediatrics 2005;116:370-8.

Jones RA. Randomized, controlled trial of dexamethasone in neonatal chronic lung disease: 13- to 17-year follow-up study: II. Respiratory status, growth, and blood pressure. Pediatrics 2005;116:379-84.

Cummings 1989

* Cummings JJ, D'Eugenio DB, Gross SJ. A controlled trial of dexamethasone in preterm infants at high risk for bronchopulmonary dysplasia. New England Journal of Medicine 1989;320:1505-10.

Cummings JJ. Personal communication. email 2002.

Gross SJ, Anbar RD, Mettelman BB. Follow-up at 15 years of preterm infants from a controlled trial of moderately early dexamethasone for the prevention of chronic lung disease. Pediatrics 2005;115:681-7.

Doyle 2006

Doyle LW, Davis PG, Morley CJ, McPhee A, Carlin JB. Outcome at 2 years of age of infants from the DART study: a multicenter, international, randomized, controlled trial of low-dose dexamethasone. Pediatrics 2007;119:716-721.

Doyle LW, Davis PG, Morley CJ, McPhee A, Carlin JB; DART Study Investigators. Low-dose dexamethasone facilitates extubation among chronically ventilator-dependent infants: a multicenter international randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics 2006;117:75-83.

Durand 1995

Durand M, Sardesi S, McEvoy C. Effect of early dexamethasone therapy on pulmonary mechanics and chronic lung disease in very low birth weight infants: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics 1995;95:584-90.

Durand M. Personal communication. email 2012.

Harkavy 1989

* Harkavy KL, Scanlow JW, Chowdhry PK, Grylack LJ. Dexamethasone therapy for chronic lung disease in ventilator-and oxygen-dependent infants. A controlled trial. Journal of Pediatrics 1989;115:979-83.

Harkavy KL. Personal communication. email 2002.

Kari 1993

* Kari MA, Heinonen KO, Ikonen RS, Koivisto M, Raivio KO. Dexamethasone treatment in preterm infants at risk for bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Archives of Disease of Childhood 1993;68:566-9.

Kari MA, Raivio KO, Venge P, Hallman M. Dexamethasone treatment of infants at risk of chronic lung disease: surfactant components and inflammatory parameters in airway specimens. Pediatric Research 1994;36:387-93.

Mieskonen S, Eronen M, Malmberg LP, Turpeinen M, Kari MA, Hallman M. Controlled trial of dexamethasone in neonatal chronic lung disease: an 8-year follow-up of cardiopulmonary function and growth. Acta Paediatrica 2003;92:896-904.

Kazzi 1990

Kazzi NJ, Brans YW, Poland RL. Dexamethasone effects on the hospital course of infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia who are dependent on artificial ventilation. Pediatrics 1990;86:722-7.

Kothadia 1999

Bensky AS, Kothadia JM, Covitz W. Cardiac effects of dexamethasone in very low birth weight infants. Pediatrics 1996;97:818-21.

Goldstein DJ, Waldrep EL, VanPelt JC, O'Shea TM. Developmental outcome at 5 years following dexamethasone use for very low birth weight infants. Pediatric Research 2000;47:310A (Abstract 1832).

* Kothadia JM, O'Shea TM, Roberts D, Auringer ST, Weaver RG, Dillard RG. Randomized placebo-controlled trial of a 42-day tapering course of dexamethasone to reduce the duration of ventilator dependency in very low birthweight infants. Pediatrics 1999;104:22-7.

Nixon PA, Washburn LK, Schechter MS, O'Shea TM. Follow-up study of a randomized controlled trial of postnatal dexamethasone therapy in very low birth weight infants: effects on pulmonary outcomes at age 8 to 11 years. Journal of Pediatrics 2007;150:345-50.

O'Shea TM, Goldstein DJ, Jackson BG, Kothadia JM, Dillard RG. Randomized trial of a 42-day tapering course of dexamethasone in very low birth weight infants: neurological, medical and functional outcome at 5 years of age. Pediatric Research 2000;47:319A (abstract 1883).

O'Shea TM, Kothadia JM, Klinepeter KL, Goldstein DJ, Jackson BG, Weaver RG, et al. Randomized placebo-controlled trial of a 42-day tapering course of dexamethasone to reduce the duration of ventilator dependency in very low birth weight infants: outcome of study participants at 1-year adjusted age. Pediatrics 1999;104:15-21.

Washburn LK, Nixon PA, O'Shea TM. Follow-up of a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of postnatal dexamethasone: blood pressure and anthropometric measurements at school age. Pediatrics 2006;118:1592-9.

Kovacs 1998

Kovacs L, Davis GM, Faucher D, Papageorgiou A. Efficacy of sequential early systemic and inhaled corticosteroid therapy in the prevention of chronic lung disease of prematurity. Acta Paediatrica 1998;87:792-8.

Kovacs LB. Personal communication. email 2002.

Noble-Jamieson 1989

Noble-Jamieson CM, Regev R, Silverman M. Dexamethasone in neonatal chronic lung disease: pulmonary effects and intracranial complications. European Journal of Pediatrics 1989;148:365-7.

Ohlsson 1992

* Ohlsson A, Calvert SA, Hosking M, Shennan AT. Randomized controlled trial of dexamethasone treatment in very-low-birth-weight infants with ventilator-dependent chronic lung disease. Acta Paediatrica 1992;81:751-6.

Ohlsson A. MSc Thesis. A randomized controlled trial of dexamethasone treatment in very low birthweight infants with ventilator dependent chronic lung disease.. McMaster University 1990.

Papile 1998

* Papile LA, Tyson JE, Stoll BJ, Wright LL, Donovan EF, Bauer CR, et al. A multicenter trial of two dexamethasone regimens in ventilator-dependent premature infants. New England Journal of Medicine 1998;338:1112-8.

Stoll BJ, Temprosa M, Tyson JE, Papile LA, Wright LL, Bauer CR, et al. Dexamethasone therapy increases infection in low birth weight infants. Pediatrics 1999;104:e63.

Parikh 2013

Parikh NA, Kennedy KA, Lasky RE, McDavid GE, Tyson JE. Pilot randomized trial of hydrocortisone in ventilator-dependent extremely preterm infants: effects on regional brain volumes. Journal of Pediatrics 2013;162(4):685-90.

Romagnoli 1998

* Romagnoli C, Vento G, Tortorolo L, et al. Dexamethasone for the prevention of chronic lung disease in preterm neonates: a prospective randomized study [II desametazone nella prevenzione della patologia polmonare cronica del neonato pretermine: studio prospettico randomizzato]. Riv Italiano Pediatrics 1998;24:283-8.

Romagnoli C, Zecca E, Luciano R, Torrioli G, Tortorolo G. A three year follow-up of preterm infants after moderately early treatment with dexamethasone. Archives of Disease of Childhood Fetal and Neonatal Edition 2002;87:F55-8.

Romagnoli C, Zecca E, Vento G, Maggio L, Papacci P, Tortorolo G. Effect on growth of two different dexamethasone courses for preterm infants at risk of chronic lung disease. Pharmacology 1999;59:266-74.

Scott 1997

Scott SM, Backstrom C, Bessman S. Effect of five days of dexamethasone therapy on ventilator dependence and adrenocorticotropic hormone-stimulated cortisol concentrations. Journal of Perinatology 1997;17(1):24-8.

Vento 2004

Vento G, Matassa PG, Zecca E, Tortorolo L, Martelli M, De Carolis MP, et al. Effect of dexamethasone on tracheobronchial aspirate fluid cytology and pulmonary mechanics in preterm infants. Pharmacology 2004;71:113-9.

Vento G. Personal communication. email 2012.

Vincer 1998

* Vincer MJ, Allen AC. Double blind randomized controlled trial of 6-day pulse of dexamethasone for very low birth weight infants (VLBW <1500 grams) who are ventilator dependent at 4 weeks of age. Pediatric Research 1998;43:201A.

Vincer MJ. Personal communication. email 2002.

Walther 2003

Walther F. Personal communication. email 2012.

Walther FJ, Findlay RD, Durand M. Adrenal suppression and extubation rate after moderately early low-dose dexamethasone therapy in very preterm infants. Early Human Development 2003;74:37-45.

Excluded studies

Anttila 2005

Anttila E, Peltoniemi O, Haumont D, Herting E, ter Horst H, Heinonen K, et al. Early neonatal dexamethasone treatment for prevention of bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Randomised trial and meta-analysis evaluating the duration of dexamethasone therapy. European Journal of Pediatrics 2005;164(8):472-81. [PubMed: 15864643]

Armstrong 2002

Armstrong DL, Penrice J, Bloomfield FH, Knight DB, Dezoete JA, Harding JE. Follow up of a randomised trial of two different courses of dexamethasone for preterm babies at risk of chronic lung disease. Archives of Disease of Childhood. Fetal and Neonatal Edition 2002;86:F102-7.

Ashton 1994

Ashton MR, Postle AD, Smith DE, Hall MA. Surfactant phosphadidylcholine composition during dexamethasone treatment in chronic lung disease. Archives of Disease of Childhood. Fetal and Neonatal Edition 1994;71:F114-7.

Baden 1972

* Baden M, Bauer CR, Colle E, Klein G, Taeusch HW Jr, Stern L. A controlled trial of hydrocortisone therapy in infants with respiratory distress syndrome. Pediatrics 1972;50(4):526-34. [PubMed: 4561296]

Fitzhardinge PM, Eisen A, Lejtenyi C, Metrakos K, Ramsay M. Sequelae of early steroid administration to the newborn infant. Pediatrics 1974;53(6):877-83.

Batton 2012

Batton BJ, Li L, Newman NS, Das A, Watterberg KL, Yoder BA, et al. Feasibility study of early blood pressure management in extremely preterm infants. Journal of Pediatrics 2012;161(1):65-9.e1. [PubMed: 22336574]

Biswas 2003

Biswas S, Buffery J, Enoch H, Bland M, Markiewicz M, Walters D. Pulmonary effects of triiodothyronine (T3) and hydrocortisone (HC) supplementation in preterm infants less than 30 weeks gestation: results of the THORN trial--thyroid hormone replacement in neonates. Pediatric Research 2003;53(1):48-56. [PubMed: 12508081]

Bloomfield 1998

Bloomfield FH, Knight DB, Harding JE. Side effects of 2 different dexamethasone courses for preterm infants at risk of chronic lung disease: a randomized trial. Journal of Pediatrics 1998;133:395-400.

Bonsante 2007

Bonsante F, Latorre G, Iacobelli S, Forziati V, Laforgia N, Esposito L, et al. Early low-dose hydrocortisone in very preterm infants: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Neonatology 2007;91(4):217-21. [PubMed: 17568152]

Couser 1992

Couser RJ, Ferrara TB, Falde B, Johnson K, Schilling CG, Hoekstra RE. Effectiveness of dexamethasone in preventing extubation failure in preterm infants at increased risk for airway edema. Journal of Pediatrics 1992;121:591-6.

Cranefield 2004

Cranefield DJ, Odd DE, Harding JE, et al. High incidence of nephrocalcinosis in extremely preterm infants treated with dexamethasone. Pediatric Radiology 2004;34:1090-7.

Durand 2002

Durand M, Mendoza MW, Tantivit P, Kugelman A, McEvoy C. A randomized trial of moderately early low-dose dexamethasone therapy in very low birth weight infants: dynamic pulmonary mechanics, oxygenation, and ventilation. Pediatrics 2002;109:262-8.

Efird 2005

Efird MM, Heerens AT, Gordon PV, Bose CL, Young DA. A randomized-controlled trial of prophylactic hydrocortisone supplementation for the prevention of hypotension in extremely low birth weight infants. Journal of Perinatology 2005;25(2):119-24. [PubMed: 15329742]

Ferrara 1990

Ferrara TB, Georgieff MK, Ebert TJ, Fisher JB. Routine use of dexamethasone for the prevention of post-extubation respiratory distress. Journal of Perinatology 1989;9:287-90.

Garland 1999

Garland JS, Alex CP, Pauly TH, Whitehead VL, Brand J, Winston JF, et al. A three-day course of dexamethasone therapy to prevent chronic lung disease in ventilated neonates: a randomized trial. Pediatrics 1999;104(1 Pt 1):91-9. [PubMed: 10390266]

Groneck 1993

Groneck P, Reuss D, Gotze-Speer B, Speer CP. Effects of dexamethasone on chemotactic activity and inflammatory mediators in tracheobronchial aspirates of preterm infants at risk for chronic lung disease. Journal of Pediatrics 1993;122:938-44.

Halac 1990

Halac E, Halac J, Begue EF, Casanas JM, Indiveri DR, Petit JF, et al. Prenatal and postnatal corticosteroid therapy to prevent neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis: a controlled trial. Journal of Pediatrics 1990;117(1 Pt 1):132-8. [PubMed: 2196355]

Kopelman 1999

Kopelman AE, Moise AA, Holbert D, Hegemier SE. A single very early dexamethasone dose improves respiratory and cardiovascular adaptation in preterm infants. Journal of Pediatrics 1999;135(3):345-50. [PubMed: 10484801]

Lin 1999

Lin YJ, Yeh TF, Hsieh WS, Chi YC, Lin HC, Lin CH. Prevention of chronic lung disease in preterm infants by early postnatal dexamethasone therapy. Pediatric Pulmonology 1999;27(1):21-6. [PubMed: 10023787]

Mammel 1983

Mammel MC, Green TP, Johnson TR. Controlled trial of dexamethasone therapy in infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Lancet 1983;i:1356-8.

Merz 1999

Merz U, Peschgens T, Kusenbach G, Hörnchen H. Early versus late dexamethasone treatment in preterm infants at risk for chronic lung disease: a randomized pilot study. European Journal of Pediatrics 1999;158:318-22.

Mukhopadhyay 1998

Mukhopadhyay K, Kumar P, Narang A. Role of early postnatal dexamethasone in respiratory distress syndrome. Indian Pediatrics 1998;35(2):117-22. [PubMed: 9707853]

Ng 2006

Ng PC, Lee CH, Bnur FL, Chan IH, Lee AW, Wong E, et al. A double-blind, randomized, controlled study of a "stress dose" of hydrocortisone for rescue treatment of refractory hypotension in preterm infants. Pediatrics 2006;117(2):367-75. [PubMed: 16452355]

Odd 2004

Odd DE, Armstrong DL, Teele RL, Kuschel CA, Harding JE. A randomized trial of two dexamethasone regimens to reduce side-effects in infants treated for chronic lung disease of prematurity. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 2004;40:282-9.

Peltoniemi 2005

* Peltoniemi O, Kari MA, Heinonen K, Saarela T, Nikolajev K, Andersson S, et al. Pretreatment cortisol values may predict responses to hydrocortisone administration for the prevention of bronchopulmonary dysplasia in high-risk infants. Journal of Pediatrics 2005;146(5):632-7. [PubMed: 15870666]

Peltoniemi OM, Lano A, Puosi R, Yliherva A, Bonsante F, Kari MA, et al. Trial of early neonatal hydrocortisone: two-year follow-up. Neonatology 2009;95(3):240-7.

Rastogi 1996

Morales P, Rastogi A, Bez ML, Akintorin SM, Pyati S, Andes SM, et al. Effect of dexamethasone therapy on the neonatal ductus arteriosus. Pediatric Cardiology 1998;19(3):225-9.

* Rastogi A, Akintorin SM, Bez ML, Morales P, Pildes RS. A controlled trial of dexamethasone to prevent bronchopulmonary dysplasia in surfactant-treated infants. Pediatrics 1996;98(2 Pt 1):204-10. [PubMed: 8692619]

Romagnoli 1999

Romagnoli C, Zecca E, Luciano R, Torrioli G, Tortorolo G. Controlled trial of early dexamethasone treatment for the prevention of chronic lung disease in preterm infants: a 3-year follow-up. Pediatrics 2002;109(6):e85.

* Romagnoli C, Zecca E, Vento G, De Carolis MP, Papacci P, Tortorolo G. Early postnatal dexamethasone for the prevention of chronic lung disease in high-risk preterm infants. Intensive Care Medicine 1999;25(7):717-21. [PubMed: 10470576]

Romagnoli C, Zecca E, Vento G, Maggio L, Papacci P, Tortorolo G. Effect on growth of two different dexamethasone courses for preterm infants at risk of chronic lung disease. Pharmacology 1999;59:266-74.

Sanders 1994

Sanders RJ, Cox C, Phelps DL, Sinkin RA. Two doses of early intravenous dexamethasone for the prevention of bronchopulmonary dysplasia in babies with respiratory distress syndrome. Pediatric Research 1994;36(1 Pt 1):122-8. [PubMed: 7936832]

Shinwell 1996

Shinwell ES, Karplus M, Reich D, Weintraub Z, Blazer S, Bader D, et al. Early postnatal dexamethasone treatment and increased incidence of cerebral palsy. Archives of Disease in Childhood. Fetal and Neonatal Edition 2000;83(3):F177-81.

Shinwell ES, Karplus M, Reich D, et al. Early dexamethasone therapy is associated with increased incidence of cerebral palsy. In: Hot Topics in Neonatology. Ross Laboratories, 1999:240-54.

* Shinwell ES, Karplus M, Zmora E, Reich D, Rothschild A, Blazer S, et al. Failure of early postnatal dexamethasone to prevent chronic lung disease in infants with respiratory distress syndrome. Archives of Disease in Childhood. Fetal and Neonatal Edition 1996;74(1):F33-7. [PubMed: 8653433]

Sinkin 2000

D'Angio CT, Maniscalco WM, Ryan RM, Avissar NE, Basavegowda K, Sinkin RA. Vascular endothelial growth factor in pulmonary lavage fluid from premature infants: effects of age and postnatal dexamethasone. Biology of the Neonate 1999;76(5):266-73.

* Sinkin RA, Dweck HS, Horgan MJ, Gallaher KJ, Cox C, Maniscalco WM, et al. Early dexamethasone-attempting to prevent chronic lung disease. Pediatrics 2000;105(3 Pt 1):542-8. [PubMed: 10699107]

Soll 1999

* Soll RF for the Vermont Oxford Network Steroid Study Group. Early postnatal dexamethasone therapy for the prevention of chronic lung disease. Pediatric Research 1999;45:226A.

The Vermont Oxford Network Steroid Study Group. Early postnatal dexamethasone therapy for the prevention of chronic lung disease. Pediatrics 2001;108(3):741-8.

Stark 2001

* Stark AR, Carlo WA, Tyson JE, Papile LA, Wright LL, Shankaran S, et al. Adverse effects of early dexamethasone in extremely-low-birth-weight infants. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network. New England Journal of Medicine 2001;344(2):95-101. [PubMed: 11150359]

Stark AR, Carlo WA, Vohr BR, Papile LA, Saha S, Bauer CR, et al. Death or neurodevelopmental impairment at 18 to 22 months corrected age in a randomized trial of early dexamethasone to prevent death or chronic lung disease in extremely low birth weight infants. Journal of Pediatrics 2013 Aug 27 [Epub ahead of print].

Subhedar 1997

Subhedar NV, Bennett AJ, Wardle SP, Shaw NJ. More trials on early treatment with corticosteroids are needed. BMJ (Clinical research ed.) 2000;320(7239):947.

* Subhedar NV, Ryan SW, Shaw NJ. Open randomised controlled trial of inhaled nitric oxide and early dexamethasone in high risk preterm infants. Archives of Disease in Childhood. Fetal and Neonatal Edition 1997;77(3):F185-90. [PubMed: 9462187]

Suske 1996

Suske G, Oestreich K, Varnholt V, Lasch P, Kachel W. Influence of early postnatal dexamethasone therapy on ventilator dependency in surfactant-substituted preterm infants. Acta Paediatrica 1996;85(6):713-8. [PubMed: 8816210]

Tapia 1998

Tapia JL, Ramirez R, Cifuentes J, Fabres J, Hubner ME, Bancalari A, et al. The effect of early dexamethasone administration on bronchopulmonary dysplasia in preterm infants with respiratory distress syndrome. Journal of Pediatrics 1998;132(1):48-52. [PubMed: 9469999]

Wang 1996

* Wang JY, Yeh TF, Lin YC, Miyamura K, Holmskov U, Reid KB. Measurement of pulmonary status and surfactant protein levels during dexamethasone treatment of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome. Thorax 1996;51(9):907-13. [PubMed: 8984701]

Wang JY, Yeh TF, Lin YJ, Chen WY, Lin CH. Early postnatal dexamethasone therapy may lessen lung inflammation in premature infants with respiratory distress syndrome on mechanical ventilation. Pediatrics 1997;23(3):193-7.

Watterberg 2004

* Watterberg KL, Gerdes JS, Cole CH, Aucott SW, Thilo EH, Mammel MC, et al. Prophylaxis of early adrenal insufficiency to prevent bronchopulmonary dysplasia: a multicenter trial. Pediatrics 2004;114(6):1649-57. [PubMed: 15574629]

Watterberg KL, Shaffer ML, Mishefske MJ, Leach CL, Mammel MC, Couser RJ, et al. Growth and neurodevelopmental outcomes after early low-dose hydrocortisone treatment in extremely low birth weight infants. Pediatrics 2007;120(1):40-8.

Wilson 1988

Wilson DM, Baldwin RB, Ariagno RL. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of effects of dexamethasone on hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal axis in preterm infants. Journal of Pediatrics 1988;113:764-8.

Yeh 1990

Yeh TF, Torre JA, Rastogi A, Anyebuno MA, Pildes RS. Early postnatal dexamethasone therapy in premature infants with severe respiratory distress syndrome: a double-blind, controlled study. Journal of Pediatrics 1990;117(2 Pt 1):273-82. [PubMed: 2199642]

Yeh 1997

Lin YJ, Lin CH, Wu JM, Tsai WH, Yeh TF. The effects of early postnatal dexamethasone therapy on pulmonary outcome in premature infants with respiratory distress syndrome: a two-year follow-up study. Acta Paediatrica 2005;94(3):310-6.

Lin YJ, Yeh TF, Lin HC, Wu JM, Lin CH, Yu CY. Effects of early postnatal dexamethasone therapy on calcium homeostasis and bone growth in preterm infants with respiratory distress syndrome. Acta Paediatrica 1998;87(10):1061-5.

Peng CT, Lin HC, Lin YJ, Tsai CH, Yeh TF. Early dexamethasone therapy and blood cell count in preterm infants. Pediatrics 1999;104(3 Pt 1):476-81.

Yeh TF, Lin IJ, Hsieh WS, et al. Prevention of chronic lung disease (CLD) in premature RDS infants with early and prolonged dexamethasone (D) therapy--A multicenter double-blind controlled study. Pediatric Research 1994;35:262A.

* Yeh TF, Lin YJ, Hsieh WS, Lin HC, Lin CH, Chen JY, et al. Early postnatal dexamethasone therapy for the prevention of chronic lung disease in preterm infants with respiratory distress syndrome: a multicenter clinical trial. Pediatrics 1997;100(4):E3. [PubMed: 9310536]

Yeh TF, Lin YJ, Huang CC, Chen YJ, Lin CH, Lin HC, et al. Early dexamethasone therapy in preterm infants: a follow-up study. Pediatrics 1998;101(5):E7.

Yeh TF, Lin YJ, Lin HC, Huang CC, Hsieh WS, Lin CH, et al. Outcomes at school age after postnatal dexamethasone therapy for lung disease of prematurity. New England Journal of Medicine 2004;350(13):1304-13.

Yoder 1991

Yoder MC, Chua R, Tepper R. Effect of dexamethasone on pulmonary inflammation and pulmonary function in ventilator-dependent infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia. American Reviews of Respiratory Disease 1991;143:1044-8.

Studies awaiting classification

  • None noted.

Ongoing studies

Onland 2011

Unpublished data only

Onland W, Offringa M, Cools F, Jaegere AP, Rademaker K, Blom H, et al. Systemic hydrocortisone to prevent bronchopulmonary dysplasia in preterm infants (the SToP-BPD study); a multicenter randomized placebo controlled trial. BMC Paediatrics 2011;11:102.

Other references

Additional references

Anonymous 1991

Anonymous. Dexamethasone for neonatal chronic lung disease. Lancet 1991;338:982-3.

Ariagno 2000

Ariagno RL, Sweeney TE, Baldwin RB, Inguillo D, Martin D. Controlled trial of dexamethasone in preterm infants at risk for bronchopulmonary dysplasia: lung function, clinical course and outcome at three years. Unpublished manuscript supplied by authors 2000.

Arias-Camison 1999

Arias-Camison JM, Lau J, Cole CH, Frantz ID. Meta-analysis of dexamethasone therapy started in the first 15 days of life for prevention of chronic lung disease in premature infants. Pediatric Pulmonology 1999;341:1190-6.

Bhuta 1998

Bhuta T, Ohlsson A. Systematic review and meta-analysis of early postnatal dexamethasone for prevention of chronic lung disease. Archives of Disease of Childhood. Fetal and Neonatal Edition 1998;79:F26-3.

Doyle 2000

Doyle LW, Davis PG. Postnatal corticosteroids in preterm infants: systematic review of effects on mortality and motor function. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 2000;36:101-7.

Doyle 2007

Doyle LW, Davis PG, Morley CJ, McPhee A, Carlin JB. Outcome at 2 years of age of infants from the DART study: a multicenter, international, randomized, controlled trial of low-dose dexamethasone. Pediatrics 2007;119:716-21.

Doyle 2010a

Doyle LW, Ehrenkranz RA, Halliday HL. Postnatal hydrocortisone for preventing or treating bronchopulmonary dysplasia in preterm infants: a systematic review. Neonatology 2010;98(2):111-7.

Doyle 2010b

Doyle LW, Ehrenkranz RA, Halliday HL. Dexamethasone treatment in the first week of life for preventing bronchopulmonary dysplasia in preterm infants: a systematic review. Neonatology 2010;98(3):217-24.

Doyle 2010c

Doyle LW, Ehrenkranz RA, Halliday HL. Dexamethasone treatment after the first week of life for bronchopulmonary dysplasia in preterm infants: a systematic review. Neonatology 2010;98(4):289-96.

Doyle 2014

Doyle LW, Ehrenkranz RE, Halliday HL.. Early (< 8 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants.. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 5. Art. No.: CD001146. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001146.pub4.

Egberts 1997

Egberts J, Brand R, Walti H, Bevilacqua G, Breart G, Gardini F. Mortality, severe respiratory distress syndrome and chronic lung disease of the newborn are reduced more after prophylactic than after therapeutic administration of the surfactant Curosurf. Pediatrics 1997;100(1):E4. [Other: http://www.pediatrics.org/egi/content/full/100/1/e4]

Flagel 2002

Flagel SB, Vazquez DM, Watson SJ Jr, Neal CR. Effects of tapering neonatal dexamethasone on rat growth, neurodevelopment, and stress response. American Journal of Regulatory Integrative Comparative Physiology 2002;282:R55-66.

Gibson 1993

Gibson AT, Pearse RG, Wales JKH. Growth retardation after dexamethasone administration: assessment by knemometry. Archives of Disease of Childhood 1993;69:505-9.

Giffin 1994

Giffin F, Greenough A. A pilot study assessing inhaled budesonide in chronically oxygen-dependent infants. Acta Paediatrica 1994;83:669-71.

Gramsbergen 1998

Gramsbergen A, Mulder EJH. The influence of betamethasone and dexamethasone on motor development in young rats. Pediatric Research 1998;44:105-10.

Gross 2005

Gross SJ, Anbar RD, Mettelman BB. Follow-up at 15 years of preterm infants from a controlled trial of moderately early dexamethasone for the prevention of chronic lung disease. Pediatrics 2005;115:681-7.

Halliday 1997

Halliday HL. A review of postnatal corticosteroids for treatment and prevention of chronic lung disease in the preterm infant. Prenatal Neonatal Medicine 1997;2:1-2.

Halliday 1999

Halliday HL. Clinical trials of postnatal corticosteroids: Inhaled and systemic. Biology of the Neonate 1999;76(Suppl 1):29-40.

Higgins 2011

Higgins JPT, Green S, editors. Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions version 5.1.0 [updated March 2011]. The Cochrane Collaboration, 2011. Available from www.cochrane-handbook.org.

Hofkosh 1995

Hofkosh D, Brozanski BS, Edwards MD, et al. One year outcome of infants treated with pulse dexamethasone for prevention of BPD. Pediatric Research 1995;37:259A.

Jones 1995

Jones R, Wincott E, Elbourne D, Grant A. Controlled trial of dexamethasone in neonatal chronic lung disease: a 3 year follow-up. Pediatrics 1995;96:897-906.

Jones 2005A

Jones RA. Randomized, controlled trial of dexamethasone in neonatal chronic lung disease: 13- to 17-year follow-up study: I. Neurologic, psychological, and educational outcomes. Pediatrics 2005;116:370-8.

Jones 2005b

Jones RA. Randomized, controlled trial of dexamethasone in neonatal chronic lung disease: 13- to 17-year follow-up study: II. Respiratory status, growth, and blood pressure. Pediatrics 2005;116:379-84.

La Force 1993

La Force WR, Budno DS. Controlled trial of beclomethasone dipropionate by rehydration in oxygen-and ventilator-dependent infants. Journal of Pediatrics 1993;122:285-8.

Mieskonen 2003

Mieskonen S, Eronen M, Malmberg LP, Turpeinen M, Kari MA, Hallman M. Controlled trial of dexamethasone in neonatal chronic lung disease: an 8-year follow-up of cardiopulmonary function and growth. Acta Paediatrica 2003;92:896-904.

Ng 1993

Ng PC. The effectiveness and side effects of dexamethasone in preterm infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Archives of Disease of Childhood 1993;68:330-6.

Nixon 2007

Nixon PA, Washburn LK, Schechter MS, O'Shea TM. Follow-up study of a randomized controlled trial of postnatal dexamethasone therapy in very low birth weight infants: effects on pulmonary outcomes at age 8 to 11 years. Journal of Pediatrics 2007;150:345-50.

Northway 1967

Northway WH, Jr., Rosan RC, Porter DY. .. Pulmonary disease following respirator therapy of hyaline-membrane disease. Bronchopulmonary dysplasia.. N Engl J Med. 1967;276:357-68.

Onland 2012

Onland W, Offringa M, van Kaam A. Late (greater than/or equal to 7 days) inhalation corticosteroids to reduce bronchopulmonary dysplasia in preterm infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD002311. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002311.pub2.

RevMan 2012

Review Manager (RevMan) [Computer program]. Version 5.2. Copenhagen: The Nordic Cochrane Centre, The Cochrane Collaboration, 2012.

Romagnoli 2002

, Torrioli G, Tortorolo G. A three year follow-up of preterm infants after moderately early treatment with dexamethasone. Archives of Disease of Childhood. Fetal and Neonatal Edition 2002;87:F55-8.

Shah 2003

Shah SS, Ohlsson A, Halliday HL, Shah VS. Inhaled versus systemic corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in ventilated very low birth weight preterm neonates. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2003, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD002058. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002058.

Shah 2007a

Shah V, Ohlsson A, Halliday H, Dunn MS. Early administration of inhaled corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in ventilated very low birth weight preterm neonates. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD001969. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001969.pub2.

Shah 2007b

Shah SS, Ohlsson A, Halliday HL, Shah VS. Inhaled versus systemic corticosteroids for the treatment of chronic lung disease in ventilated very low birth weight preterm infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD002057. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002057.pub2.

Stanley 1982

Stanley FJ. Using cerebral palsy data in the evaluation of neonatal intensive care: a warning. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology 1982;24:93-4.

Tarnow-Mordi 1999

Tarnow-Mordi W. Postnatal dexamethasone in preterm infants. BMJ 1999;319:1385-6.

Tschanz 1995

Tschanz SA, Damke BM, Burri PH. Influence of postnatally administered glucocorticoids on rat lung growth. Biology of the Neonate 1995;68:229-45.

Washburn 2006

Washburn LK, Nixon PA, O'Shea TM. Follow-up of a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of postnatal dexamethasone: blood pressure and anthropometric measurements at school age. Pediatrics 2006;118:1592-9.

Watterberg 1999

Watterberg KL, Gerdes JS, Gifford KL, Lin H-M. Prophylaxis against early adrenal insufficiency to prevent chronic lung disease in premature infants. Pediatrics 1999;104:1258-63.

Weichsel 1977

Weichsel ME. The therapeutic use of glucocorticoid hormones in the perinatal period: potential neurologic hazards. Annals of Neurology 1977;2:364-6.

Other published versions of this review

Halliday 1998

Halliday HL. Postnatal corticosteroids in the preterm infants with chronic lung disease: Late treatment (>3 weeks). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 1998, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD001145. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001145.

Halliday 2000a

Halliday HL, Ehrenkranz RA. Moderately early (7-14 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2000, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD001144. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001144.

Halliday 2000b

Halliday HL, Ehrenkranz RA. Delayed (>3 weeks) postnatal corticosteroids for chronic lung disease in preterm infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2000, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD001145. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001145.

Halliday 2001a

Halliday HL, Ehrenkranz RA. Delayed (>3 weeks) postnatal corticosteroids for chronic lung disease in preterm infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2001, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD001145. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001145.

Halliday 2001b

Halliday HL, Ehrenkranz RA. Moderately early (7-14 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2001, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD001144. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001144.

Halliday 2003a

Halliday HL, Ehrenkranz RA, Doyle LW. Moderately early (7-14 days) postnatal corticosteroids for preventing chronic lung disease in preterm infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2003, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD001144. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001144.

Halliday 2003b

Halliday HL, Ehrenkranz RA, Doyle LW. Delayed (>3 weeks) postnatal corticosteroids for chronic lung disease in preterm infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2003, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD001145. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001145.

Halliday 2009

Halliday HL, Ehrenkranz RA, Doyle LW. Late (>7 days) postnatal corticosteroids for chronic lung disease in preterm infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD001145. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001145.pub2.

Classification pending references

  • None noted.

[top]

Data and analyses

1 Mortality

For graphical representations of the data/results in this table, please use link under "Outcome or Subgroup."

Outcome or Subgroup Studies Participants Statistical Method Effect Estimate
1.1 Neonatal mortality before 28 days 8 656 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.49 [0.28, 0.85]
1.2 Mortality to hospital discharge 19 1035 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.86 [0.66, 1.13]
1.3 Mortality at latest reported age 19 1035 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.86 [0.67, 1.10]

2 Chronic lung disease (CLD)/bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD)

For graphical representations of the data/results in this table, please use link under "Outcome or Subgroup."

Outcome or Subgroup Studies Participants Statistical Method Effect Estimate
2.1 CLD at 28 days 6 623 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.87 [0.81, 0.94]
2.2 CLD at 36 weeks 9 535 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.76 [0.66, 0.88]
2.3 CLD at 36 weeks in survivors 5 265 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.82 [0.70, 0.96]
2.4 Late rescue with corticosteroids 13 1096 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.47 [0.38, 0.59]
2.5 Home on oxygen 7 611 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.71 [0.54, 0.94]
2.6 Survivors discharged home on oxygen 6 277 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.69 [0.51, 0.94]

3 Death or CLD

For graphical representations of the data/results in this table, please use link under "Outcome or Subgroup."

Outcome or Subgroup Studies Participants Statistical Method Effect Estimate
3.1 Death or CLD at 28 days 5 563 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.84 [0.78, 0.89]
3.2 Death or CLD at 36 weeks 9 535 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.76 [0.68, 0.85]

4 Failure to extubate

For graphical representations of the data/results in this table, please use link under "Outcome or Subgroup."

Outcome or Subgroup Studies Participants Statistical Method Effect Estimate
4.1 Failure to extubate by 3rd day 5 180 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.76 [0.64, 0.89]
4.2 Failure to extubate by 7th day 10 497 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.64 [0.56, 0.74]
4.3 Failure to extubate by 14th day 4 124 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.63 [0.45, 0.90]
4.4 Failure to extubate by 28th day 3 236 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.57 [0.37, 0.89]

5 Complications during primary hospitalisation

For graphical representations of the data/results in this table, please use link under "Outcome or Subgroup."

Outcome or Subgroup Studies Participants Statistical Method Effect Estimate
5.1 Infection 16 1304 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.15 [0.97, 1.35]
5.2 Hyperglycaemia 16 1271 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.50 [1.25, 1.80]
5.3 Glycosuria 2 48 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 8.03 [2.43, 26.52]
5.4 Hypertension 14 1175 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 2.12 [1.45, 3.10]
5.5 New cranial echodensities 1 18 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 7.00 [0.41, 118.69]
5.6 Necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) 9 1016 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.03 [0.61, 1.74]
5.7 Gastrointestinal bleeding 7 992 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.38 [0.99, 1.93]
5.8 Gastrointestinal perforation 3 159 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.60 [0.28, 9.31]
5.9 Severe retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) 12 558 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.38 [1.07, 1.79]
5.10 Severe ROP in survivors 9 416 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.31 [0.99, 1.74]
5.11 Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy 4 238 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 2.76 [1.33, 5.74]
5.12 Pneumothorax 3 157 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.89 [0.53, 1.49]
5.13 Severe intraventricular haemorrhage (IVH) 5 247 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.44 [0.19, 1.02]

6 Long-term follow-up

For graphical representations of the data/results in this table, please use link under "Outcome or Subgroup."

Outcome or Subgroup Studies Participants Statistical Method Effect Estimate
6.1 Bayley Mental Developmental Index (MDI) < -2 SD 4 217 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.87 [0.41, 1.85]
6.2 Bayley MDI < -2 SD in survivors tested 4 161 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.77 [0.37, 1.63]
6.3 Bayley Psychomotor Developmental Index (PDI) < -2 SD 1 118 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.78 [0.34, 1.80]
6.4 Bayley PDI < -2 SD in survivors tested 1 90 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.67 [0.30, 1.50]
6.5 Blindness 12 720 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.78 [0.35, 1.73]
6.6 Blindness in survivors assessed 12 502 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.77 [0.35, 1.67]
6.7 Deafness 7 501 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.56 [0.22, 1.44]
6.8 Deafness in survivors assessed 7 325 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.67 [0.27, 1.66]
6.9 Cerebral palsy 15 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) Subtotals only
  6.9.1 At 1 to 3 years 14 876 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.06 [0.76, 1.50]
  6.9.2 At latest reported age 15 855 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.12 [0.79, 1.60]
6.10 Death before follow-up in trials assessing cerebral palsy 15 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) Subtotals only
  6.10.1 At 1 to 3 years 14 876 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.84 [0.64, 1.10]
  6.10.2 At latest reported age 15 855 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.82 [0.62, 1.10]
6.11 Death or cerebral palsy 15 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) Subtotals only
  6.11.1 At 1 to 3 years 14 876 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.92 [0.76, 1.12]
  6.11.2 At latest reported age 15 855 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.95 [0.77, 1.16]
6.12 Cerebral palsy in survivors assessed 15 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) Subtotals only
  6.12.1 At 1 to 3 years 14 631 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.05 [0.75, 1.47]
  6.12.2 At latest reported age 15 591 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.12 [0.79, 1.58]
6.13 Major neurosensory disability (variable criteria - see individual studies) 8 655 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.17 [0.85, 1.60]
6.14 Death before follow-up in trials assessing major neurosensory disability (variable criteria) 8 655 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.85 [0.63, 1.15]
6.15 Death or major neurosensory disability (variable criteria) 8 655 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.04 [0.86, 1.26]
6.16 Major neurosensory disability (variable criteria) in survivors assessed 8 480 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.10 [0.81, 1.50]
6.17 Abnormal neurological exam (variable criteria - see individual studies) 4 200 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.81 [1.05, 3.11]
6.18 Death before follow-up in trials assessing abnormal neurological exam (variable criteria) 4 200 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.57 [0.33, 0.99]
6.19 Death or abnormal neurological exam (variable criteria) 4 200 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.96 [0.71, 1.31]
6.20 Abnormal neurological exam (variable criteria) in survivors assessed 4 145 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.62 [0.96, 2.73]
6.21 Rehospitalisation 1 118 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.15 [0.79, 1.66]
6.22 Rehospitalisation in survivors seen at follow-up 1 92 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.98 [0.72, 1.34]

7 Later childhood outcomes

For graphical representations of the data/results in this table, please use link under "Outcome or Subgroup."

Outcome or Subgroup Studies Participants Statistical Method Effect Estimate
7.1 Recurrent wheezing in survivors examined at 5 years 1 74 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.47 [0.82, 2.64]
7.2 Use of corrective lenses in survivors examined at 5 years 1 74 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.61 [0.82, 3.13]
7.3 Use of physical therapy in survivors examined at 5 years 1 74 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.49 [0.71, 3.11]
7.4 Use of speech therapy in survivors examined at 5 years 1 74 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.46 [0.21, 1.02]
7.5 Intellectual impairment in survivors tested at 5 or more years 3 254 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.04 [0.71, 1.52]
7.6 IQ 2 92 Std. Mean Difference (IV, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.06 [-0.37, 0.49]

8 Respiratory outcomes in childhood - after 5 years

For graphical representations of the data/results in this table, please use link under "Outcome or Subgroup."

Outcome or Subgroup Studies Participants Statistical Method Effect Estimate
8.1 Asthma in survivors assessed 2 213 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.71 [0.44, 1.16]
8.2 Forced expired volume in 1 sec - < -2 SD 2 187 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.58 [0.36, 0.94]
8.3 Forced expired volume in 1 sec - Z score 1 124 Mean Difference (IV, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.28 [-0.14, 0.70]
8.4 Forced expired volume in 1 sec - % predicted 2 78 Mean Difference (IV, Fixed, 95% CI) 5.68 [-1.69, 13.05]
8.5 Forced vital capacity - < -2 SD 2 183 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.57 [0.24, 1.34]
8.6 Forced vital capacity - Z score 1 120 Mean Difference (IV, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.09 [-0.31, 0.49]
8.7 Forced vital capacity - % predicted 2 78 Mean Difference (IV, Fixed, 95% CI) 8.71 [2.38, 15.03]
8.8 FEV1/FVC % 1 63 Mean Difference (IV, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.00 [-3.70, 5.70]
8.9 FEV1/FVC < -2 SD 1 63 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.88 [0.44, 1.77]
8.10 FEF 25% to 75% - % predicted 1 63 Mean Difference (IV, Fixed, 95% CI) 7.00 [-5.40, 19.40]
8.11 Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction 1 56 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.87 [0.13, 5.73]
8.12 Positive bronchodilator response 1 55 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.17 [0.42, 3.23]

9 Growth in childhood

For graphical representations of the data/results in this table, please use link under "Outcome or Subgroup."

Outcome or Subgroup Studies Participants Statistical Method Effect Estimate
9.1 Height z-score 2 208 Mean Difference (IV, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.14 [-0.18, 0.46]
9.2 Height < -2 SD 2 207 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.81 [0.34, 1.94]
9.3 Weight z-score 2 207 Mean Difference (IV, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.03 [-0.35, 0.40]
9.4 Weight < -2 SD 1 68 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.53 [0.09, 2.95]
9.5 Body mass index (BMI) z-score 2 205 Mean Difference (IV, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.02 [-0.34, 0.38]
9.6 BMI < -2 SD 1 67 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.49 [0.13, 1.87]

10 Blood pressure in childhood

For graphical representations of the data/results in this table, please use link under "Outcome or Subgroup."

Outcome or Subgroup Studies Participants Statistical Method Effect Estimate
10.1 Systolic blood pressure > 95th centile 2 207 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.84 [0.49, 1.45]
10.2 Systolic blood pressure z-score 1 67 Mean Difference (IV, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.04 [-0.43, 0.52]
10.3 Diastolic blood pressure > 95th centile 2 206 Risk Ratio (M-H, Fixed, 95% CI) 1.04 [0.23, 4.60]
10.4 Diastolic blood pressure z-score 1 67 Mean Difference (IV, Fixed, 95% CI) 0.01 [-0.32, 0.34]
 

Figures

Figure 1 (Analysis 1.3)

Refer to figure 1 caption below

Funnel plot of comparison: 1 Mortality, outcome: 1.3 Mortality at latest reported age (Figure 1 description).

Figure 2 (Analysis 2.2)

Refer to figure 2 caption below

Funnel plot of comparison: 2 Chronic lung disease (CLD)/bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), outcome: 2.2 CLD at 36 weeks (Figure 2 description).

Figure 3 (Analysis 3.2)

Refer to figure 3 caption below

Funnel plot of comparison: 3 Death or CLD, outcome: 3.2 Death or CLD at 36 weeks (Figure 3 description).

Figure 4 (Analysis 6.11)

Refer Figure 4 caption below

Funnel plot of comparison: 6 Long-term follow-up, outcome: 6.11 Death or cerebral palsy (Figure 4 description).

Sources of support

Internal sources

  • Action Research Grant to study long-term follow-up, UK
  • Action Research (UK) Grant to study the effects of postnatal steroids, UK

External sources

  • National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia
  • Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, USA
  • Editorial support of the Cochrane Neonatal Review Group has been funded with Federal funds from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, USA, under Contract No. HHSN275201100016C.

This review is published as a Cochrane review in The Cochrane Library, Issue 5, 2014 (see http://www.thecochranelibrary.com External Web Site Policy for information).  Cochrane reviews are regularly updated as new evidence emerges and in response to feedback.  The Cochrane Library should be consulted for the most recent version of the review.