To systematically review the role of corticosteroids in prevention of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in high-risk patients, and in treatment of established ARDS. Primary articles were identified by English-language Pubmed/MEDLINE, Cochrane central register of controlled trials, and Cochrane systemic review database search (1960-June 2009) using the MeSH headings: ARDS, adult respiratory distress syndrome, ARDS, corticosteroids, and methylprednisolone (MP). The identified studies were reviewed and information regarding role of corticosteroids in prevention and treatment of ARDS was evaluated. Nine trials have evaluated the role of corticosteroid drugs in management of ARDS at various stages. Of the 9, 4 trials evaluated role of corticosteroids in prevention of ARDS, while other 5 trials were focused on treatment after variable periods of onset of ARDS. Trials with preventive corticosteroids, mostly using high doses of MP, showed negative results with patients in treatment arm, showing higher mortality and rate of ARDS development. While trials of corticosteroids in early ARDS showed variable results, somewhat, favoring use of these agents to reduce associated morbidities. In late stage of ARDS, these drugs have no benefits and are associated with adverse outcome. Use of corticosteroids in patients with early ARDS showed equivocal results in decreasing mortality; however, there is evidence that these drugs reduce organ dysfunction score, lung injury score, ventilator requirement, and intensive care unit stay. However, most of these trials are small, having a significant heterogeneity regarding study design, etiology of ARDS, and dosage of corticosteroids. Further research involving large-scale trials on relatively homogeneous cohort is necessary to establish the role of corticosteroids for this condition.
Keywords: Acute respiratory distress syndrome; adult respiratory distress syndrome; corticosteroids; methylprednisolone.