Background: Whether addition of corticosteroids to antibiotic treatment benefits patients with community-acquired pneumonia who are not in intensive care units is unclear. We aimed to assess effect of addition of dexamethasone on length of stay in this group, which might result in earlier resolution of pneumonia through dampening of systemic inflammation.
Methods: In our double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, we randomly assigned adults aged 18 years or older with confirmed community-acquired pneumonia who presented to emergency departments of two teaching hospitals in the Netherlands to receive intravenous dexamethasone (5 mg once a day) or placebo for 4 days from admission. Patients were ineligible if they were immunocompromised, needed immediate transfer to an intensive-care unit, or were already receiving corticosteroids or immunosuppressive drugs. We randomly allocated patients on a one-to-one basis to treatment groups with a computerised randomisation allocation sequence in blocks of 20. The primary outcome was length of hospital stay in all enrolled patients. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00471640.
Findings: Between November, 2007, and September, 2010, we enrolled 304 patients and randomly allocated 153 to the placebo group and 151 to the dexamethasone group. 143 (47%) of 304 enrolled patients had pneumonia of pneumonia severity index class 4-5 (79 [52%] patients in the dexamethasone group and 64 [42%] controls). Median length of stay was 6·5 days (IQR 5·0-9·0) in the dexamethasone group compared with 7·5 days (5·3-11·5) in the placebo group (95% CI of difference in medians 0-2 days; p=0·0480). In-hospital mortality and severe adverse events were infrequent and rates did not differ between groups, although 67 (44%) of 151 patients in the dexamethasone group had hyperglycaemia compared with 35 (23%) of 153 controls (p<0·0001).
Interpretation: Dexamethasone can reduce length of hospital stay when added to antibiotic treatment in non-immunocompromised patients with community-acquired pneumonia.
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