TUESDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- The serious and sometimes deadly risk that hospitalized traumatic brain injury patients will develop pneumonia can be reduced by pre-treatment with the steroid hydrocortisone, new French research suggests.
Pneumonia is a looming threat for trauma patients. In fact, "the overall rate of post-traumatic pneumonia reaches an incidence of 40 percent to 60 percent, mainly in patients with traumatic brain injury," the study authors noted in the report published in the March 23/30 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"Early post-traumatic pneumonia increases the duration of mechanical ventilation, hospitalization and risk of death. Thus, prevention of post-trauma pneumonia is a major clinical and economical issue," according to background information in the study.
"Both experimental and clinical data suggest that corticosteroid use may decrease the occurrence and severity of [hospital-acquired] pneumonia in patients treated in intensive care units (ICUs)," the team, led by Dr. Antoine Roquilly of the University of Nantes in France, wrote in the report.
To gauge the potential protective impact of hydrocortisone, the team focused on 150 severe brain trauma patients who were being treated in one of seven French "level 1" ICU trauma centers between 2006 and 2009.
Some patients were randomly selected to receive an intravenous drip of 200 milligrams (mg) a day of hydrocortisone for five days, 100 mg on the sixth day and 50 mg on the seventh day. Patients who were not placed on the hydrocortisone regimen were given a sugar pill (placebo).
The results: While more than 51 percent of the placebo patients ultimately developed pneumonia by the 28th day in the hospital, that figure dropped to under 36 percent among patients on the steroid regimen.
When looking solely at patients found to have an insufficient amount of naturally produced corticosteroid
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