BACKGROUND. Postnatal corticosteroids were widely used in the 1990s in an attempt to reduce the incidence of bronchopulmonary dysplasia. However, high rates of short-term adverse effects and impaired neurodevelopmental outcomes were seen. In early 2002, a joint statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Canadian Paediatric Society called for limitation in the use of postnatal corticosteroids. The impact of this statement is not known.

OBJECTIVES. The purpose of this work was to determine the frequency of postnatal corticosteroid use and mortality and morbidities over time, particularly before and after the joint statement.

DESIGN/METHODS. We conducted a retrospective analysis of cohort data within 3 large network registries (the National Institute of Child Health and Development Neonatal Research Network [18 centers], the Vermont Oxford Network [444 centers], and the Canadian Neonatal Network [10 centers]) for the following 3 periods: prestatement (2001), statement (2002), and poststatement (2003) of very low birth-weight infants (501–1500 g). The National Institute of Child Health and Development Neonatal Research Network and the Vermont Oxford Network were also analyzed for longer-term trends from 1990 to 2003. Postnatal corticosteroid use, mortality at discharge, and neonatal morbidities (bronchopulmonary dysplasia at 36 weeks, late-onset infection >72 hours of age, necrotizing enterocolitis treated with surgery, and length of stay) between periods were compared.

RESULTS. Mean birth weight (range: 1022–1060 g), postmenstrual age (28 weeks), and gender (51% male) were similar between the networks. Race differed with more black infants in the National Institute of Child Health and Development Neonatal Research Network than the Vermont Oxford Network (38% vs 24%). Antenatal steroid use was similar (range: 61%–75%). Postnatal corticosteroid use rose from 1990 (8%–16%), peaked in 1996–1998 (24%–28%), and began to decline in 1999. Use in 2003 was significantly less than in 2001. Mortality and major morbidities were similar.

CONCLUSIONS. Postnatal corticosteroid use had decreased significantly in 3 large neonatal networks before the joint statement with further decreases after the statement with no apparent impact on mortality and short-term morbidity. Despite substantial decreases, ∼8% of very low birth-weight infants continue to be treated with postnatal corticosteroid.

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