Objective: To provide health care providers, patients, and the general public with a responsible assessment of currently available data regarding the benefits and risks of repeat courses of antenatal corticosteroids.
Participants: A non-Federal, non-advocate, 16-member panel representing the fields of obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, maternal and fetal medicine, neonatology, medical ethics, community health, pharmacology, psychology, and reproductive biology. In addition, 13 experts in these same fields presented data to the panel and to a conference audience of approximately 200.
Evidence: The literature was searched using MEDLINE and an extensive bibliography of references was provided to the panel. Experts prepared abstracts of their conference presentations with relevant citations from the literature. Scientific evidence was given precedence over clinical anecdotal experience.
Consensus process: The panel, answering predefined questions, developed their conclusions based on the scientific evidence presented in open forum and the scientific literature. The panel composed a draft statement that was read in its entirety and circulated to the experts and the audience for comment. Thereafter, the panel resolved conflicting recommendations and released a revised statement at the end of the conference. The panel finalized the revisions within a few weeks after the conference. The draft statement was made available on the World Wide Web immediately following its release at the conference and was updated with the panel's final revisions.
Conclusions: The collective international data continue to support unequivocally the use and efficacy of a single course of antenatal corticosteroids using the dosage and interval of administration specified in the 1994 Consensus Development Conference report. The current benefit and risk data are insufficient to support routine use of repeat or rescue courses of antenatal corticosteroids in clinical practice. Clinical trials are in progress to assess potential benefits and risks of various regimens of repeat courses. Until data establish a favorable benefit-to-risk ratio, repeat courses of antenatal corticosteroids, including rescue therapy, should be reserved for patients enrolled in clinical trials.