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Perinatal Corticosteroids: A Review of Research Part I: Antenatal Administration

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The premature infant may receive therapeutic glucocorticoid drugs while in utero or in the postnatal period. This article (part I of a two-part series) discusses the benefits and risks of in utero, or antenatal, corticosteroids (ACS) for the premature infant. Part II addresses the benefits and risks of postnatal corticosteroid (PCS) use. There are numerous clinical studies on the therapeutic use of these steroids for the prevention of respiratory distress syndrome and chronic lung disease in the premature infant, although research results on the efficacy of repeated steroid exposure among premature infants vary. Premature infants who are exposed to repeated courses of ACS and/or highcumulative- dose PCS may show no neurologic side effects until later in life. Research in newborn animal models focused on the timing, duration, and amounts of ACS and PCS. Current clinical research includes examination of the neurodevelopment of infants who are therapeutically exposed to perinatal corticosteroids, to identify safer minimal dose protocols. Over the past 30 years, corticosteroids have been increasingly prescribed before and after birth. Understanding the potential treatment benefits and risks to human fetuses and neonates is vital to clinical practice. This review presents historic and pharmacokinetic information about prenatal use of corticosteroids. It also offers scientific evidence of the benefits and risks identified in animal models and clinical trials, to stimulate thought that guides neonatal clinical practice.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2004

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