Corticosteroids in COVID-19: Is it Rational? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

SN Compr Clin Med. 2020 Oct 19;1-21. doi: 10.1007/s42399-020-00515-6. Online ahead of print.


Due to a lack of definitive treatment, many drugs were repurposed for Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment; among them, corticosteroid is one. However, its benefit or harm while treating COVID-19 is not fully studied. Thus, we conducted this meta-analysis to assess the rationality on the use of corticosteroids in COVID-19. Pubmed, Medline,, Cochrane library, and Preprint publisher were searched. In the qualitative syntheses, 41, and quantitative studies, 40, were included using PRISMA guidelines. Assessment of heterogeneity was done using the I-squared (I 2) test and random/fixed effect analysis was done to determine the odds/risk ratio. We found severely ill COVID-19 patients almost 5 (OR 4.78, 2.76-8.26) times higher odds of getting corticosteroids during their treatment. Similarly, the odds for corticosteroids in addition to standard of care (SOC) were approximately 4 (OR 4.09, 1.89-8.84) times higher among intensive care unit (ICU) patients than non-ICU ones. A higher mortality risk with the corticosteroid-receiving group compared with the SOC alone (RR 2.01, 1.12-3.63) was observed. Neither increased discharge rate (RR 0.79, 0.63-0.99) nor recovery/improvement rate was shown among the corticosteroid-receiving group (OR 0.24, 0.13-0.43). Approximately, the overall 4-day longer hospital stay was found among the treatment groups (MD 4.19, 2.57-5.81). For the negative conversion of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), approximately a 3-day (MD 2.42, 1.31-3.53) delay was observed with corticosteroid treatment cases. Our study concludes that more severe and critically ill patients tend to get corticosteroids, and the mortality risk increases with the use of corticosteroids. With the use of corticosteroids, delayed recovery and a longer hospital stay were observed.

Keywords: COVID-19; Critical illness; Length of stay; Patient discharge; Survival rate.

Publication types

  • Review