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Postnatal corticosteroids and neurodevelopmental outcomes in extremely low birthweight or extremely preterm infants: 15-year experience in Victoria, Australia

Abstract

Objective Postnatal corticosteroids (PCS) are used to prevent or treat bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) in extremely low birthweight (ELBW; <1000 g) or extremely preterm (EPT; <28 weeks) infants. In the early 2000s, concerns were raised about increased risks of cerebral palsy (CP) in association with PCS, which may have affected prescribing of PCS, and influenced rates of BPD, mortality or long-term neurosensory morbidity. Our aim was to determine the changes over time in the rates of PCS use and 2-year outcomes in ELBW/EPT infants in Victoria, Australia.

Design All ELBW or EPT infants born in Victoria, Australia in three distinct eras (1991–92, 1997 and 2005) who were alive at 7 days were included. Rates of PCS use, rates of BPD (oxygen dependency at 36 weeks' corrected age), death before 2 years of age, CP and major disability (any of moderate/severe CP, developmental quotient <−2 SD, blindness or deafness) were contrasted between cohorts.

Results The rate of PCS use and the dose prescribed diminished significantly in 2005 compared with earlier eras, but the rate of BPD rose. Non-significant changes in the rates of mortality over time were mirrored by non-significant changes in the rates of CP or major disability. Combined outcomes of mortality with either major disability or CP were similar over the three eras.

Conclusions PCS use decreased in 2005 compared with earlier eras, and was accompanied by a rise in BPD, with no significant changes in mortality or neurological morbidity.

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