Background: It is controversial whether treatment with corticosteroids reduces stricture formation in the esophagus after the ingestion of caustic material.
Methods: We conducted a prospective study over an 18-year period in which 60 children (median age, 2 years) with esophageal injury from the ingestion of caustic material were assigned randomly to treatment either with or without corticosteroids. The corticosteroids were given initially as prednisolon (2 mg per kilogram of body weight per day intravenously) and then as prednisone orally to complete a three-week course. All patients were evaluated by esophagoscopy within 24 hours of the ingestion. Those with moderate or severe esophageal injury had repeat esophagoscopy and barium swallow at follow-up.
Results: Esophageal strictures developed in 10 of the 31 children treated with corticosteroids and in 11 of the 29 controls (P not significant). Four children in the steroid group and seven in the control group eventually required esophageal replacement (P not significant). All but 1 of the 21 children with strictures had severe circumferential burns on initial esophagoscopy.
Conclusions: There appears to be no benefit from the use of steroids to treat children who have ingested a caustic substance. The development of esophageal stricture was related only to the severity of the corrosive injury.