A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial was conducted to evaluate the effects of enterally administered dexamethasone on the hospital course of infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia. A total of 23 infants with a birth weight <1500 g who were dependent on artificial ventilation 3 to 4 weeks of age received dexamethasone (n = 12) or saline placebo (n = 11). Dexamethasone (0.5 mg/kg per day) was given in tapering doses for 7 days followed by hydrocortisone (8 mg/kg per day) which was progressively reduced for a total of 17 days of therapy. Infants who received dexamethasone required less oxygen on days 8 and 17 (P < .05) and were more likely to extubate 8 days after therapy than infants in the control group (respectively 8/12 vs 3/11 infants, P < .05; P = .12 after Yates correction). The use of dexamethasone significantly shortened median duration of mechanical ventilation (4 vs 22 days, P < .05) but had no effect on length of oxygen therapy, hospitalization, home oxygen therapy, occurrence and severity of retinopathy of prematurity, rate of growth, and mortality. No significant complications resulted from dexamethasone therapy. Measurements of plasma dexamethasone levels confirmed the absorption of drug from the gastrointestinal tract (23.7 ng/mL in dexamethasone vs 4.6 ng/mL in the control group, P < .05). Dexamethasone administration resulted in short-term improvements in pulmonary function but did not ameliorate the hospital course of infants with bronchopulmonary dysplasia.

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