Objective: To develop a consensus on the use of antenatal corticosteroids for fetal maturation in preterm infants.
Participants: A nonfederal, nonadvocate, 16-member consensus panel including representatives from neonatology, obstetrics, family medicine, behavioral medicine, psychology, biostatistics, and the public; 19 experts in neonatology, obstetrics, and pharmacology presented data to the consensus panel and a conference audience of approximately 500.
Evidence: An extensive bibliography of references was produced for the consensus panel and the conference audience using a variety of on-line databases including MEDLINE. The consensus panel met several times prior to the conference to review the literature. It also commissioned an updated meta-analysis, a neonatal registry review, and an economic analysis that were presented at the conference. The experts prepared abstracts for distribution at the conference, presented data, and answered questions from the panel and audience. The panel evaluated the strength of the scientific evidence using the grading system developed by the Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health Examination and adapted by the US Preventive Services Task Force.
Consensus: The consensus panel, answering predefined consensus questions, developed their conclusions based on the scientific evidence presented in open forum and the scientific literature.
Consensus statement: The consensus panel composed a draft statement that was read in its entirety at the conference for comment. The panel released a revised statement at the end of the conference and finalized the revisions a few weeks after the conference.
Conclusions: Antenatal corticosteroid therapy is indicated for women at risk of premature delivery with few exceptions and will result in a substantial decrease in neonatal morbidity and mortality, as well as substantial savings in health care costs. The use of antenatal corticosteroids for fetal maturation is a rare example of a technology that yields substantial cost savings in addition to improving health.