Postnatal steroid use in bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) decreases lung inflammation but increases impairment (NDI). We hypothesized that increased dose is associated with increased NDI, lower postmenstrual age (PMA) at exposure increases NDI and risk of BPD modifies the effect of PNS.
Steroid dose and timing of exposure beyond 7 days was assessed among 2358 ELBW nested in a prospective trial, with 1667 (84%) survivors examined at 18-22 months PMA. Logistic regression tested the relationship between NDI (Bayley MDI/PDI < 70, disabling cerebral palsy (CP) or sensory impairment), total dose (tertiles < 0.9, 0.9-1.9, ≥ 1.9 mg/kg) and PMA at first dose. Separate logistic regression tested effect modification by BPD severity (Romagnoli Risk > 0.5 as high risk, n=2336 (99%) for days of life 4-7).
366 neonates (16%) were steroid treated (94% dexamethasone). Treated neonates were smaller and less mature. 72% of those treated were high risk for BPD. PNS exposure was associated with NDI/death (61 vs. 44%, p < 0.001). NDI increased with higher dose; 71% dead or impaired at highest dose tertile. Each 1 mg/kg was associated with a 2.0 point reduction in MDI and a 40% risk increase in disabling CP. (OR 1.4, 95% CI: 1.2-1.6). Older PMA did not mitigate the harm. Treatment after 33 weeks PMA was associated with greatest harm (NDI/death OR 2.5, 95% CI: 1.1-5.5) despite not receiving highest dose. The relationship of PNS to NDI was modified by BPD risk, (High risk OR 1.9, 95% CI: 1.4-2.6; Low risk OR 2.9, 95% CI: 1.8-4.8) with those at highest risk experiencing less harm.
Higher PNS dose was associated with increased NDI. There is no “safe” window for PNS use in ELBWs. Neonates with low BPD risk should not be exposed. A randomized trial of PNS for infants at highest risk is warranted.
Keywords: postnatal corticosteroids, neurodevelopmental impairment, extremely low birth weight infants