Adjuvant Corticosteroid Treatment in Adults With Influenza A (H7N9) Viral Pneumonia

Crit Care Med. 2016 Jun;44(6):e318-28. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000001616.


Objective: To determine the impact of adjuvant corticosteroids administered to patients hospitalized with influenza A (H7N9) viral pneumonia.

Design: The effects of adjuvant corticosteroids on mortality were assessed using multivariate Cox regression and a propensity score-matched case-control study. Nosocomial infections and viral shedding were also compared.

Setting: Hospitals with influenza A (H7N9) viral pneumonia patient admission in 84 cities and 16 provinces of Mainland China.

Patients: Adolescent and Adult patients aged >14 yr with severe laboratory-confirmed influenza A (H7N9) virus infections were screened from April 2013 to March 2015.

Interventions: None.

Measurements and main results: The study population comprised 288 cases who were hospitalized with influenza A (H7N9) viral pneumonia. The median age of the study population was 58 years, 69.8% of the cohort comprised male patients, and 51.4% had at least one type of underlying diseases. The in-hospital mortality was 31.9%. Two hundred and four patients (70.8%) received adjuvant corticosteroids; among them, 193 had hypoxemia and lung infiltrates, 11 had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and 11 had pneumonia only. Corticosteroids were initiated within 7 days (interquartile range, 5.0-9.4 d) of the onset of illness and the maximum dose administered was equivalent to 80-mg methylprednisolone (interquartile range, 40-120 mg). The patients were treated with corticosteroids for a median duration of 7 days (interquartile range, 4.0-11.3 d). Cox regression analysis showed that compared with the patients who did not receive corticosteroid, those who received corticosteroid had a significantly higher 60-day mortality (adjusted hazards ratio, 1.98; 95% CI, 1.03-3.79; p = 0.04). Subgroup analysis showed that high-dose corticosteroid therapy (> 150 mg/d methylprednisolone or equivalent) significantly increased both 30-day and 60-day mortality, whereas no significant impact was observed for low-to-moderate doses of corticosteroids (25-150 mg/d methylprednisolone or equivalent). The propensity score-matched case-control analysis showed that the median viral shedding time was much longer in the group that received high-dose corticosteroids (15 d), compared with patients who did not receive corticosteroids (13 d; p = 0.039).

Conclusions: High-dose corticosteroids were associated with increased mortality and longer viral shedding in patients with influenza A (H7N9) viral pneumonia.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Case-Control Studies
  • China / epidemiology
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H7N9 Subtype*
  • Influenza, Human / complications*
  • Influenza, Human / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumonia, Viral / drug therapy*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / mortality*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology
  • Propensity Score
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Time Factors
  • Virus Shedding / drug effects
  • Young Adult


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Antiviral Agents