Comparison of Associations Between Glucocorticoids Treatment and Mortality in COVID-19 Patients and SARS Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Shock. 2021 Aug 1;56(2):215-228. doi: 10.1097/SHK.0000000000001738.


Background: The response to glucocorticoids treatment may be different between coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Methods: In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we searched studies on Medline, Embase, EBSCO, ScienceDirect, Web of Science, Cochrane Library,, International Clinical Trials Registry Platform from 2002 to October 7, 2020. We used fixed-effects and random-effects models to compute the risk ratio of death in the group receiving glucocorticoids treatment and the control group for COVID-19 and SARS, respectively.

Results: Ten trials and 71 observational studies, with a total of 45,935 patients, were identified. Glucocorticoids treatment was associated with decreased all-cause mortality both in COVID-19 (risk ratio, 0.88; 95% confidence interval, 0.82-0.94; I2 = 26%) and SARS (0.48; 0.29-0.79; 10%), based on high-quality evidence, as well as decreased all-cause mortality-including composite outcome of COVID-19 (0.89; 0.82-0.98; 0%). In subgroup analyses, all-cause mortality was significantly lower among COVID-19 patients being accompanied by severe ARDS but not mild ARDS, taking low-dose or pulse glucocorticoids, being critically severe but not only severe, being of critical severity and old but not young, being of critical severity and men but not women, non-early taking glucocorticoids, taking dexamethasone or methylprednisolone, and with the increased inflammatory state; but for SARS, lower mortality was observed among those who were taking medium-high dose glucocorticoids, being severe or critically severe, early taking glucocorticoids, and taking methylprednisolone or prednisolone.

Conclusions: Glucocorticoids treatment reduced mortality in COVID-19 and SARS patients of critical severity; however, different curative effects existed between the two diseases among subpopulations, mainly regarding sex- and age-specific effects, optimal doses, and use timing of glucocorticoids.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / drug therapy*
  • COVID-19 / mortality
  • Global Health
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics*
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Survival Rate / trends


  • Glucocorticoids