This chapter on therapeutic drift with antenatal steroids will make the case that this pilar of treatment to improve the outcomes of preterm infants, despite multiple Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) and meta-analysis, has multiple gaps in solid clinical data to support any expanded use of Antenatal Corticosteroids (ACS). A basic problem is that agents used for ACS have never been evaluated to minimize fetal exposures. Based on the premise that all drug exposure to the fetus should be minimized and only used when necessary, ACS is a potent developmental modulator that has never been evaluated to minimize the dose and duration of fetal exposure. The use of ACS is expanding to late preterm infants where the benefit is modest, to elective C-sections, and periviable fetuses, with minimal RCT data of long-term benefit. Relevant animal experiments demonstrate that much lower doses will induce lung maturation in sheep and primates. Another area of drift in the use of ACS is based on the assumption that the old RCT data accurately predict the magnitude of benefit when ACS is used today with entirely different OB and neonatal care strategies to improve outcomes. We do not have data that demonstrate the effectiveness of ACS in very low resource environments, where most of the preterm mortality occurs. The final concern is the risk of ACS to the infant and child. Short-term risks are minimal but dysmaturation effects of ACS on multiple organ systems (lung, heart, brain, and kidney) may result in disease presentation in later life.
- Developmental origins of health and disease (DOHAD)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health