Objectives: To investigate the effect of hydrocortisone treatment on survival without bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) and to study whether serum cortisol concentrations predict the response.
Study design: We performed a randomized, placebo-controlled trial on infants with gestation < or =30 weeks, body weight of 501 to 1250 g, and respiratory failure. Hydrocortisone was started before 36 hours of age and given for 10 days at doses from 2.0 to 0.75 mg/kg per day. Shortly before hydrocortisone treatment, basal and stimulated (ACTH, 0.1 microg/kg) serum cortisols were measured.
Results: The study was discontinued early, because of gastrointestinal perforations in the hydrocortisone group (4/25 vs 0/26, P = .05); 3 of the 4 had received indomethacin/ibuprofen. The incidence of BPD (28% vs placebo 42%, P = 0.28) tended to be lower, and patent ductus arteriosus (36% vs 73%, P = .01) was lower in the hydrocortisone group. The hydrocortisone-treated infants with serum cortisol concentrations above the median had a high risk of gastrointestinal perforation. In infants with cortisol values below the median, hydrocortisone treatment increased survival without BPD.
Conclusions: Serum cortisol concentrations measured shortly after birth may identify those very high-risk infants who may benefit from hydrocortisone supplementation.