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Additional Steroid Dose May Help Preemies
Date:1/29/2009

Fewer babies have complications, without ill effects, study finds

THURSDAY, Jan. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Giving a second dose of steroids to babies still in the womb can reduce their post-birth respiratory problems and does not seem to affect their growth the way multiple courses can, new research shows.

In babies born before 34 weeks, about 43 percent of those given a second dose of steroids in utero had complications, compared with about 63 percent of the babies given a placebo.

"We saw a 31 percent reduction in overall composite neonatal morbidity. That's highly significant," said study author Dr. James Kurtzman, an associate clinical professor in the division of maternal-fetal medicine in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, Irvine.

The real advantage, he added, came from the reduction in respiratory problems. Fewer babies had respiratory distress syndrome, and fewer babies needed mechanical ventilation.

Results of the study were to be presented Jan. 29 at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The study will also be published in the March edition of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Kurtzman and his colleague, Dr. Thomas Garite, began the study because they were concerned that some premature babies were missing out on the potential benefits from at least one dose of pre-birth steroids.

When doctors first started giving steroids to mothers who appeared to be going into pre-term labor, they discovered that, for the babies' health, it was best if the steroid dose was given no more than seven days before delivery.

But it's not always easy to tell exactly when a woman will deliver. So, if a woman passed the seven-day mark and still had not delivered, doctors would repeat the steroid dose. However, doctors soon learned that multiple courses of steroids led to growth restric
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