Early complications of high-dose methylprednisolone in acute spinal cord injury patients

Injury. 2008 Jul;39(7):748-52. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2007.12.005. Epub 2008 Jun 9.


Background: To evaluate the early complications and effect on neurological outcome of methylprednisolone (MP) treatment in spinal cord injury (SCI) patients during the acute phase.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the whole cohort of patients admitted to our ICU between January 1994 and December 2005 due to acute SCI. Patients were grouped according to the medical treatment received (MP group versus no-MP group). Patient data as age, gender, Glasgow coma score (GCS), APACHE II, injury severity score (ISS) and ICU stay were recorded. Outcome at ICU discharge and neurological function based on Frankel grade was recorded at ICU admission and at ICU discharge. Early complications were also noted.

Results: There were no differences between both groups in ICU mortality (OR=0.48; 95% CI: 0.08-3.64) nor neurological function at ICU discharge. (OR=1.09; 95% CI: 0.35-3.66). MP group presented an increase in respiratory tract infections (OR=8.19; 95% CI: 1.10-358.6) and in total infections (OR=4.90; 95% CI: 1.46-18.83) compared to no-MP group during the ICU stay. There was a significant increase in the incidence of hyperglycaemia in the MP group (OR=17.0; 95% CI: 4.52-66.3).

Conclusions: The use of MP in patients with acute SCI is not associated with an improvement in outcome or neurological function at ICU discharge. Moreover, the use of MP is associated with an increased risk of infectious and metabolic complications during ICU stay.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / adverse effects*
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Evaluation
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / chemically induced
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Methylprednisolone / administration & dosage
  • Methylprednisolone / adverse effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Opportunistic Infections / chemically induced
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / chemically induced
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / drug therapy*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Methylprednisolone