Single course of antenatal steroids did not alter cortisol in preterm infants up to 18 months

Acta Pediatrica, 05/02/2012

Gover A et al. – No effect of a single course of dexamethasone on resting salivary cortisol, an indicator of hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis function, was found in infancy up to 18 months corrected age in infants born very preterm.


  • Preterm infants born >32 weeks gestational age were recruited during 2001–2004 from a single neonatal intensive care unit.
  • Resting salivary cortisol was collected at least once at 3, 8 and 18 months corrected age in a longitudinal cohort.
  • A mixed-effects repeated measures analysis was used to accommodate cases with less than complete follow-up.


  • One hundred and thirty three infants were included in the present study, contributing 266 cortisol samples.
  • Of these, 107 infants had been exposed to a single course of antenatal dexamethasone and 26 not exposed to antenatal steroids.
  • There was no significant main effect of antenatal steroids on resting cortisol at any age.
  • This result was not altered after adjusting for gestational age at birth, neonatal cumulative pain, morphine exposure, mechanical ventilation days and post-natal steroid exposure.

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