Corticosteroid Administration and Impaired Glycemic Control in Mechanically Ventilated COVID-19 Patients

Semin Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth. 2022 Mar;26(1):32-40. doi: 10.1177/10892532211043313. Epub 2021 Sep 2.


Objective: Recent clinical trials confirmed the corticosteroid dexamethasone as an effective treatment for patients with COVID-19 requiring mechanical ventilation. However, limited attention has been given to potential adverse effects of corticosteroid therapy. The objective of this study was to determine the association between corticosteroid administration and impaired glycemic control among COVID-19 patients requiring mechanical ventilation and/or veno-venous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.

Design: Multicenter retrospective cohort study between March 9 and May 17, 2020. The primary outcome was days spent with at least 1 episode of blood glucose either >180 mg/dL or <80 mg/dL within the first 28 days of admission.

Setting: Twelve hospitals in a United States health system.

Patients: Adults diagnosed with COVID-19 requiring invasive mechanical ventilation and/or veno-venous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.

Interventions: None.

Measurements and main results: We included 292 mechanically ventilated patients. We fitted a quantile regression model to assess the association between steroid administration ≥320 mg methylprednisolone (equivalent to 60 mg dexamethasone) and impaired glycemic control. Sixty-six patients (22.6%) died within 28 days of intensive care unit admission. Seventy-one patients (24.3%) received a cumulative dose of least 320 mg methylprednisolone equivalents. After adjustment for gender, history of diabetes mellitus, chronic liver disease, sequential organ failure assessment score on intensive care unit day 1, and length of stay, administration of ≥320 mg methylprednisolone equivalent was associated with 4 additional days spent with glucose either <80 mg/dL or >180 mg/dL (B = 4.00, 95% CI = 2.15-5.85, P < .001).

Conclusions: In this cohort study of 292 mechanically ventilated COVID-19 patients, we found an association between corticosteroid administration and higher incidence of both hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia.

Keywords: COVID-19; corticosteroids; dexamethasone; glycemic control; hyperglycemia; hypoglycemia; mechanical ventilation.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects
  • Adult
  • COVID-19* / therapy
  • Cohort Studies
  • Glycemic Control
  • Humans
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones