Controversy over the efficacy of systemic corticosteroids for acute bronchiolitis initiated this study. We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to examine the efficacy of single dexamethasone injection for the treatment of acute bronchiolitis in young hospitalized children. The study, performed at the pediatric wards of a University Hospital and its affiliated hospital in Thailand, included 174 previously healthy children under 2 years of age, hospitalized with acute bronchiolitis. Each child received either a single intramuscular injection of 0.6 mg/kg dexamethasone or a placebo in addition to regular management. The primary outcome was the time from study entry to resolution of respiratory distress, determined by a clinical score derived from the respiratory rate, occurrence of wheezing, chest retraction, and oxygen saturation. Survival analysis using the Kaplan-Meier method and a log-rank test were performed. A single-dose, dexamethasone injection versus placebo produced a significant: (1) decrease in the time needed for resolution of respiratory distress (hazard ratio 1.56; 95% CI, 1.14-2.13; P = 0.005), (2) decrease in the mean duration of symptoms of 11.8 hr (95% CI, 3.9-19.7; P = 0.004), (3) decrease in the mean duration of oxygen therapy of 14.9 hr (95% CI, 5.3-24.4; P = 0.003), and (4) decrease in the mean length of hospital stay of 13.4 hr (95%CI, 2.6-24.2; P = 0.02). In conclusion, a single injection of dexamethasone yielded a significant clinical benefit for the treatment of previously healthy, young children hospitalized with acute bronchiolitis.
Copyright 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.