Objective: The objective of the study was to determine the efficacy and side effects of corticosteroid therapy for pregnant women with severe preeclampsia in the prevention of respiratory distress syndrome in their premature neonates.
Study design: A prospective double-blind randomized trial enrolled 218 pregnant women with severe preeclampsia and gestational age between 26 and 34 weeks. One hundred ten received betamethasone (12 mg administered intramuscularly, repeated after 24 hours and then once a week) and 108 received placebo. Relative risks and 95% confidence intervals of respiratory distress syndrome and other neonatal and maternal complications were calculated for corticosteroid use.
Results: Frequency of respiratory distress syndrome was significantly reduced in the corticosteroid group (23%) with respect to the placebo group (43%), with a relative risk of 0.53 (95% confidence interval 0.35-0. 82). Relative risks of intraventricular hemorrhage, patent ductus arteriosus, and perinatal infection were significantly decreased in the corticosteroid group: 0.35 (95% confidence interval 0.15-0.86), 0.27 (95% confidence interval 0.08-0.95), and 0.39 (95% confidence interval 0.39-0.97), respectively. There was no significant difference in the frequency of stillbirth, but the neonatal mortality rate was lower in the corticosteroid group (14%) than in the placebo group (28%), with a relative risk of 0.5 (95% confidence interval 0.28-0.89). There was increased risk of gestational diabetes but of no other maternal complication after corticosteroid therapy, and mean blood pressures were similar in the 2 groups.
Conclusions: Antenatal corticosteroid therapy with betamethasone for acceleration of fetal lung maturity is a safe and efficient treatment in patients with severe preeclampsia at between 26 and 34 weeks' gestation.