Cardiac adverse effects of early dexamethasone treatment in preterm infants: a randomized clinical trial

J Clin Pharmacol. 2001 Oct;41(10):1075-81. doi: 10.1177/00912700122012670.


This study evaluates the effects of early administration of dexamethasone on left ventricle dimensions and their clinical significance in preterm infants. Fifty preterm infants with birth weight < or = 1250 g and gestational age < or = 30 weeks were randomly assigned after 72 hours of life to the dexamethasone group (n = 25) or to the control group (n = 25). The treated infants received dexamethasone intravenously from the 4th day of life for 7 days (0.5 mg/kg/day for the first 3 days, 0.25 mg/kg/day for the next 3 days, and 0.125 mg/kg/day for the 7th day). Serial echocardiographic measurements of end systolic interventricular septum thickness, end diastolic interventricular septum thickness, end systolic left ventricle posterior wall thickness, end diastolic left ventricle posterior wall thickness, left ventricle end diastolic diameter, and left ventricle end systolic diameter were taken before starting dexamethasone, on days 3 and 7 of treatment, 7 days after the interruption of treatment, and at the 28th day of life. Five infants of each group were excluded by the final analysis because of the lack of a complete cardiac evaluation, leaving 20 treated and 20 control infants. Infants receiving dexamethasone had a significantly larger increase in mean septal and left posterior wall thickness during the treatment and 7 days after the dexamethasone weaning. The mean left ventricle diameter of treated infants was significantly lower than that of control infants from the 7th day of treatment to the 28th day of life. Four neonates (20%) in the dexamethasone group developed left ventricular myocardial hypertrophy without left ventricle outflow tract obstruction, showing signs of decreased cardiac output and ischemic changes on ECG. The daily fluid intake was increased to 200 ml/kg to ensure an adequate preload volume, and the complete resolution of left ventricle hypertrophy was obtained within the 2nd to 3rd week after dexamethasone weaning. Preterm infants receiving an early (< 96 hours of life) short course of dexamethasone develop a left ventricular myocardial hypertrophy that can be symptomatic and clinically significant. Preterm infants included in future studies with the goal to find the minimum dose and duration of dexamethasone treatment should be strictly monitored echocardiographically for this side effect.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects*
  • Cardiovascular System / physiopathology
  • Dexamethasone / adverse effects*
  • Dexamethasone / therapeutic use
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy, Left Ventricular / chemically induced
  • Hypertrophy, Left Ventricular / diagnostic imaging
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature* / physiology
  • Lung Diseases / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Newborn / drug therapy
  • Ultrasonography
  • Ventricular Function, Left / drug effects
  • Ventricular Function, Left / physiology


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Dexamethasone