Hypothesis: Corticosteroid use has a significant effect on morbidity and mortality in the intensive care unit (ICU).
Design: Case-control study.
Setting: Burn-trauma ICU in a level 1 trauma center.
Patients: All patients who received corticosteroids while in the ICU from January 1, 2002, to December 31, 2003 (n = 100), matched by age and Injury Severity Score with a control group (n = 100).
Main outcome measures: We considered the following 7 outcomes: pneumonia, bloodstream infection, urinary tract infection, other infections, ICU length of stay (LOS), ventilator LOS, and mortality.
Results: Cases and controls had similar APACHE II (Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II) scores and medical history. In univariate analysis, the corticosteroid group had a significant increase in pneumonia (26% vs 12%; P<.01), bloodstream infection (19% vs 7%; P<.01), and urinary tract infection (17% vs 8%; P<.05). In multivariate models, corticosteroid use was associated with an increased rate of pneumonia (odds ratio [OR], 2.64; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.21-5.75) and bloodstream infection (OR, 3.25; 95% CI, 1.26-8.37). There was a trend toward increased urinary tract infection (OR, 2.31; 95% CI, 0.94-5.69), other infections (OR, 2.57; 95% CI, 0.87-7.67), and mortality (OR, 1.89; 95% CI, 0.81-4.40). Patients in the ICU who received corticosteroids had a longer ICU LOS by 7 days (P<.01) and longer ventilator LOS by 5 days (P<.01).
Conclusions: Corticosteroid use is associated with increased rate of infection, increased ICU and ventilator LOS, and a trend toward increased mortality. Caution must be taken to carefully consider the indications, risks, and benefits of corticosteroids when deciding on their use.