Objective: To determine whether dexamethasone prevents postextubation airway obstruction in young children.
Design: Prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.
Setting: Pediatric intensive care unit of a university teaching hospital.
Patients: Sixty-six children, < 5 yrs of age, intubated and mechanically ventilated for > 48 hrs.
Interventions: Patients were randomized to receive intravenous dexamethasone (0.5 mg/kg, maximum dose 10 mg) or saline, every 6 hrs for six doses, beginning 6 to 12 hrs before elective extubation.
Measurements and main results: Dependent variables included the presence of stridor, Croup Score, and pulsus paradoxus at 10 mins, 6, 12, and 24 hrs after extubation; need for aerosolized racemic epinephrine and reintubation. The dexamethasone and placebo groups were similar in age (median 3 months [range 1 to 57] vs. 4 months [range 1 to 59], p = .6), frequency of underlying airway anomalies (3/33 vs. 3/33, p = 1.0), and duration of mechanical ventilation (median 3.3 days [range 2.1 to 39] vs. 3.5 days [range 2.1 to 15], p = .7). The dexamethasone group had a lower frequency of stridor, Croup Score, and pulsus paradoxus measurement at 10 mins and at 6 and 12 hrs after extubation. Fewer dexamethasone-treated patients required epinephrine aerosol (4/31 vs. 22/32, p < .0001) and reintubation (0/31 vs. 7/32, p < .01). Three patients exited the study early-one patient in the dexamethasone group had occult gastrointestinal hemorrhage and one patient in each group had hypertension.
Conclusion: Pretreatment with dexamethasone decreases the frequency of postextubation airway obstruction in children.