Do corticosteroids prevent oesophageal stricture after corrosive ingestion?

Toxicol Rev. 2005;24(2):125-9. doi: 10.2165/00139709-200524020-00006.


The most serious complication of corrosive damage to the oesophagus besides perforation is stricture formation. The role of corticosteroids in preventing corrosive-induced strictures is controversial. This review evaluates the usefulness of corticosteroid treatment by critically assessing clinical reports published between 1991 and 2004 in the English, German, French and Spanish literature. Inclusion criteria were the presence of second- or third-degree oesophageal injuries documented by endoscopy and management involving either at least an 8-day course of corticosteroids or no steroid therapy. Ten studies with a total of 572 patients fulfilled the inclusion criteria: six studies employed corticosteroids, two studies did not use corticosteroids, and two studies compared the outcome with and without corticosteroid treatment. In those patients with second-degree burns, the incidence of stricture in the corticosteroid-treated patients was 13.8% and in the non-corticosteroid-treated patients was 6.3%. In those patients with third-degree burns, significantly worse results were found in the corticosteroid-treated group (71.0%) than in the non-corticosteroid-treated group (23.1%). As all studies did not separate second- and third-degree burns, re-analysis of the outcome was undertaken. In the 305 patients treated with corticosteroids, 35.1% developed strictures, whereas 33.3% of the 267 non-corticosteroid-treated patients developed strictures. These data suggest that systemic corticosteroids are not beneficial for second- and third-degree corrosive oesophageal burns. Therefore, the use of corticosteroids in the management of corrosive ingestions should be abandoned as they do not prevent the development of strictures and may lead to the development of serious adverse effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use*
  • Adult
  • Burns, Chemical / complications*
  • Burns, Chemical / drug therapy
  • Caustics / toxicity*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Esophageal Stenosis / chemically induced
  • Esophageal Stenosis / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Caustics