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Short-term pulmonary and systemic effects of hydrocortisone initiated 7–14 days after birth in ventilated very preterm infants: a secondary analysis of a randomised controlled trial


Objective Observational studies in preterm infants suggest that systemic hydrocortisone improves pulmonary condition but may also lead to systemic adverse effects. We report the short-term pulmonary and systemic effects of hydrocortisone initiated in the second week.

Design Randomised placebo-controlled trial.

Setting Dutch and Belgian neonatal intensive care units.

Patients Infants born <30 weeks’ gestation and/or birth weight <1250 g, and ventilator dependent in the second week of life.

Intervention Infants were randomly assigned to a 22-day course of systemic hydrocortisone (cumulative dose 72.5 mg/kg; n=182) or placebo (n=190).

Main outcome measures Data on extubation, ventilator settings, glucose levels, and blood pressure were recorded daily and analysed during the first 7 days of treatment using linear mixed-effects models.

Results Infants in the hydrocortisone group (24.3%) failed extubation less often compared with placebo (38.6%, crude risk difference: −14.3% (95% CI: −23.4% to −4.8%)). The estimated difference in daily rate of change between hydrocortisone and placebo was −0.42 cmH2O (95% CI: −0.48 to −0.36) for mean airway pressure, −0.02 (95% CI: −0.02 to −0.01) for fraction of inspired oxygen, −0.37 (95% CI: −0.44 to −0.30) for respiratory index, 0.14 mmol/L (95% CI: 0.08 to 0.21) for blood glucose levels and 0.83 mm Hg (95% CI: 0.58 to 1.09) for mean blood pressure.

Conclusions Systemic hydrocortisone initiated between 7 and 14 days after birth in ventilated preterm infants improves pulmonary condition, thereby facilitating weaning and extubation from invasive ventilation. The effects of hydrocortisone on blood glucose levels and blood pressure were mild and of limited clinical relevance.

Trial registration number Netherlands Trial Register (NTR2768; and European Union Clinical Trials Register (EudraCT, 2010-023777-19).

  • Neonatology
  • Respiratory Medicine

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Deidentified individual participant data (including data dictionaries) will be made available, in addition to study protocol, the statistical analysis plan and the analytical code. The data will be made available upon publication to researchers who provide a methodologically sound proposal for use in achieving the goals of the approved proposal. Proposals should be submitted to Professor Anton van Kaam (email:

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