“Our study shows that you get almost all of the benefit from a single round of therapy and that multiple rounds raise the risk of cerebral palsy, which is a severely disabling condition,” said John M. Thorp, M.D., a study co-author and professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The researchers followed women between 23 weeks and 32 weeks pregnant who remained pregnant after an initial dose of corticosteroids. They were randomly assigned to receive weekly courses of the corticosteriod betamethasone or placebo injections.
Children born to women enrolled in the study were given physical and neurological examinations at ages two to three years old. A total of 556 children were examined. Of these, 486 (87.4 percent) had physical exams and 465 (83.6 percent) were evaluated for brain function using a measurement tool called the Bayley Scales of Infant Development.
The researchers found that there were no meaningful differences in weight, head circumference or Bayley scores between children whose mothers received a single dose of corticosteroids. However, six children in the group whose mothers received multiple injections had cerebral palsy, compared to only one child in the placebo group.
However, more information is needed before it is clear which strategy is optimal, the scientists state. They propose further study of school-age neurodevelopmental performance, including the possible increased risk of cerebral palsy among these children, as well as among offspring of women in other trials of weekly corticosteroid therapy, with attention to the doses used.
MEDICA.de; Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill