Background: Postnatal corticosteroids (PNC) were widely used to treat and prevent bronchopulmonary dysplasia in preterm infants until studies showed increased risk of cerebral palsy and neurodevelopmental impairment. We aimed to describe PNC use in Europe and evaluate the determinants of their use, including neonatal characteristics and adherence to evidence-based practices in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).
Methods: 3917/4096 (95,6%) infants born between 24 and 29 weeks gestational age in 19 regions of 11 European countries of the EPICE cohort we included. We examined neonatal characteristics associated with PNC use. The cohort was divided by tertiles of probability of PNC use determined by logistic regression analysis. We also evaluated the impact of the neonatal unit's reported adherence to European recommendations for respiratory management and a stated policy of reduced PNC use.
Results: PNC were prescribed for 545/3917 (13.9%) infants (regional range 3.1-49.4%) and for 29.7% of infants in the highest risk tertile (regional range 5.4-72.4%). After adjustment, independent predictors of PNC use were a low gestational age, small for gestational age, male sex, mechanical ventilation, use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to treat persistent ductus arteriosus and region. A stated NICU policy reduced PNC use (odds ratio 0.29 [95% CI 0.17; 0.50]).
Conclusion: PNC are frequently used in Europe, but with wide regional variation that was unexplained by neonatal characteristics. Even for infants at highest risk for PNC use, some regions only rarely prescribed PNC. A stated policy of reduced PNC use was associated with observed practice and is recommended.