Objective: We tested the hypothesis that early postnatal dexamethasone (EPD) increases the risk of focal small bowel perforation (FSBP) in extremely low birth weight (ELBW) infants.
Study design: The techniques of meta-analysis were applied to studies evaluating EPD, which we identified through a systematic literature search. Studies were included if they were randomized, placebo-controlled trials of EPD, enrolled infants with birth weights < or =1000 g, and reported FSBP as an outcome variable. The Breslow-Day test was used to assess for homogeneity and a summary odds ratio was calculated using the Mantel-Haenszel exact method.
Results: Four studies, with a pooled sample of 1383 infants, were included in the primary analysis. The Breslow-Day test showed a p-value of 0.61, indicating homogeneity among the studies. FSBP was significantly higher in EPD treated infants [odds ratio 1.91, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.21, 3.07; p=0.004].
Conclusion: EPD increases the risk of FSBP in ELBW infants.