To determine whether inhaled steroid therapy causes delayed linear growth in children with asthma.
Medline (1966–1998), Embase (1980–1998), and Cinahl (1982–1998) databases and bibliographies of included studies were searched for randomized, controlled trials of inhaled steroid therapy in children with asthma that evaluated linear growth.
Studies were included if they met the following criteria: subjects 0 to 18 years of age with the clinical diagnosis of asthma; subjects randomized to inhaled beclomethasone, budesonide, flunisolide, fluticasone, or triamcinolone versus a nonsteroidal inhaled control for a minimum of 3 months; single- or double-blind; and outcome convertible to linear growth velocity. English- and non–English-language trials were included.
Data were extracted using a priori guidelines. Methodologic quality was assessed independently by both authors. Outcome was extracted as linear growth velocity.
Included trials were subgrouped by inhaled steroid. The beclomethasone subgroup, with 4 studies and 450 subjects, showed a decrease in linear growth velocity of 1.51 cm/year (95% confidence interval: 1.15,1.87). The fluticasone subgroup, with 1 study and 183 subjects, showed a decrease in linear growth velocity of .43 cm/year (95% confidence interval: .01,.85). Sensitivity analysis in the beclomethasone subgroup, which evaluated study quality, mode of medication delivery, control medication, and statistical model, showed similar results.
This meta-analysis suggests that moderate doses of beclomethasone and fluticasone in children with mild to moderate asthma cause a decrease in linear growth velocity of 1.51 cm/year and .43 cm/year, respectively. The effects of inhaled steroids when given for >54 weeks, or on final adult height, remain unknown.