Objective: The aim of the study was to determine the feasibility, the cost and the effects of antenatal maternal corticosteroid treatment on preventing respiratory distress syndrome in premature neonates of our population.
Subjects and methods: Between January, 1, 1998 and June, 31, 1999, 118 pregnant women at 26-34 weeks' gestation and at a high risk of premature delivery, were prospectively randomized in 2 groups: group 1 received intramusculary 24 mg of betamethasone (12 mg every 24 hours), group 2 didn't receive antenatal corticosteroids. At birth, premature neonates were systematically examined by a neonatologist.
Results: 131 premature neonates were born (63 from group 1, 68 from group 2). The incidence and the degree of severity of respiratory distress syndrome, appeared substancially reduced (4.8% vs 27.9%) by the use of antenatal corticosteroids. Moreover, neonatal mortality due to respiratory distress syndrome was statistically less in group 1 than in group 2 (22.9% vs 57%). There was no significant difference in the occurrence of maternal or neonatal corticosteroid complications such as infection between treated group and control subjects. We estimated a potential annual savings of 21 thousands tunisian dinars, when the cost implications for antenatal corticosteroid therapy were estimated to 2 thousands tunisian dinars.
Conclusion: Maternal administration of corticosteroids before preterm delivery results in a decrease in the incidence and severity of respiratory distress syndrome and a decrease in neonatal mortality rate among premature neonates born to treated versus untreated mothers at 26-34 weeks' gestation; added to an annual savings estimated to 21 thousands tunisian dinars.