Background: Postnatal corticosteroids were widely used in the 1990s in an attempt to reduce the incidence of bronchopulmonary dysplasia. However, high rates of short-term adverse effects and impaired neurodevelopmental outcomes were seen. In early 2002, a joint statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Canadian Paediatric Society called for limitation in the use of postnatal corticosteroids. The impact of this statement is not known.
Objectives: The purpose of this work was to determine the frequency of postnatal corticosteroid use and mortality and morbidities over time, particularly before and after the joint statement.
Design/methods: We conducted a retrospective analysis of cohort data within 3 large network registries (the National Institute of Child Health and Development Neonatal Research Network [18 centers], the Vermont Oxford Network [444 centers], and the Canadian Neonatal Network [10 centers]) for the following 3 periods: prestatement (2001), statement (2002), and poststatement (2003) of very low birth-weight infants (501-1500 g). The National Institute of Child Health and Development Neonatal Research Network and the Vermont Oxford Network were also analyzed for longer-term trends from 1990 to 2003. Postnatal corticosteroid use, mortality at discharge, and neonatal morbidities (bronchopulmonary dysplasia at 36 weeks, late-onset infection >72 hours of age, necrotizing enterocolitis treated with surgery, and length of stay) between periods were compared.
Results: Mean birth weight (range: 1022-1060 g), postmenstrual age (28 weeks), and gender (51% male) were similar between the networks. Race differed with more black infants in the National Institute of Child Health and Development Neonatal Research Network than the Vermont Oxford Network (38% vs 24%). Antenatal steroid use was similar (range: 61%-75%). Postnatal corticosteroid use rose from 1990 (8%-16%), peaked in 1996-1998 (24%-28%), and began to decline in 1999. Use in 2003 was significantly less than in 2001. Mortality and major morbidities were similar.
Conclusions: Postnatal corticosteroid use had decreased significantly in 3 large neonatal networks before the joint statement with further decreases after the statement with no apparent impact on mortality and short-term morbidity. Despite substantial decreases, approximately 8% of very low birth-weight infants continue to be treated with postnatal corticosteroid.