Objective: To evaluate the benefits and the medium-term side effects of methylprednisolone in very preterm infants at risk of chronic lung disease.
Study design: Forty-five consecutive preterm infants (< 30 weeks' gestation) at risk of chronic lung disease were treated at a mean postnatal age of 16 days with a tapering course of methylprednisolone. The outcome of treatment was assessed by comparison with 45 consecutive historical cases of infants treated with dexamethasone; the infants did not differ in baseline characteristics.
Results: There were no differences between groups in the rate of survivors without chronic lung disease. Infants treated with methylprednisolone had a higher rate of body weight gain during the treatment period (median 120 g, range 0 to 190, vs. 70 g, range -110 to 210, P = 0.01) and between birth and the age of 40 weeks (median 1660 g, range 1170-2520, vs. 1580 g, range 1,040 to 2,120, P = 0.02). The incidence of both glucose intolerance requiring insulin (0 % vs. 18 %, P = 0.006) and cystic periventricular leukomalacia (2 % vs. 18%, P = 0.03) was lower among methylprednisolone-treated infants.
Conclusion: Our observations confirm methylprednisolone to be as effective as dexamethasone and to have fewer side effects. A randomized control trial is needed to further study the efficacy and safety of methylprednisolone in very premature infants at risk of chronic lung disease.