Navigation Links
Steroids Given to Preemies May Harm Brain Growth: Study

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Giving premature babies even low doses of steroids after birth interferes with development of the brain's cerebellum, which is important to motor skills, learning and behavior, new research finds.

For the study, researchers analyzed MRIs of 172 babies born very early (under 32 weeks' gestation) at two medical centers, the University of British Columbia and the University of California, San Francisco. Full term is considered 40 weeks' gestation.

Preemies are sometimes given steroids known as glucocorticoids after birth to improve lung function and to stabilize low blood pressure, both of which are common problems.

The study found that preemies given the steroids hydrocortisone or dexamethasone had on average a 10 percent smaller cerebellum than premature babies not given the drug. Most of the infants had their brains scanned shortly after birth and again at around what would have been full term.

"Their cerebellums were growing slower," said lead study author Dr. Emily Tam, an assistant professor of neurology and pediatrics at University of California, San Francisco. "And we know from other studies that a smaller cerebellum in preemies is associated with poorer outcomes."

Mothers-to-be who are at risk of preterm labor are also often given steroids (usually betamethasone) before the baby is born to speed up maturation of the lungs. Researchers did not see any connection between prebirth steroids and smaller cerebellums. More controversy surrounds their use in babies after birth.

The study is published in the Oct. 19 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

About 13 percent of babies are born prematurely each year in the United States, according to the study. Premature babies can have all sorts of difficulties. Some 5 to 10 percent of very preterm infants have cerebral palsy, and up to half have behavioral disorders or learning disabilities.

Prior research has found that high-dose steroids may interfere with cerebellum growth, Tam said. Previous research has also found that children given steroids right after birth are more prone to learning and behavioral problems, said Dr. Pierre Gressens, a professor of perinatal neurology at the Centre for the Developing Brain at Imperial College in London and a lab chief at INSERM in Paris.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding high-dose dexamethasone in babies after birth, according to background information in the study.

In practice, some hospitals never use steroids in premature babies, while others routinely give steroids, Gressens said. In the study, about 20 percent of the 172 babies had been given steroids post-birth, Tam said.

The new research suggests that steroids should be given after birth only with the utmost caution, carefully balancing potential risks and benefits, Gressens said.

"There are situations where steroids are useful for a short time for the lungs, but doctors have to remember there is a particular toxicity of this steroid," Gressens said.

Tam agreed that doctors should be very cautious in giving steroids to premature babies.

"Even a low dose of dexamethasone or hydrocortisone are associated with decreased brain development, which would make us need to be careful when using these drugs," she said.

"They are very effective drugs," she continued. "We wouldn't want to say don't use them entirely, because we don't have very good alternatives. But when you think about options, don't jump straight to the steroid. You always have to think about the risk and benefit balance. Now there's more risk they have to consider when they think about using this drug."

Tam and her colleagues plan to follow the children as they get older to see if the smaller cerebellums result in motor, learning or behavioral issues.

In a second study, also led by UCSF researchers and published in the same journal issue, researchers showed that a small molecule drug blocked the negative effects of steroids on the cerebellum in mice.

The drug worked by stimulating a pathway that's involved with growth of neurons, which is what steroids appear to hamper, Gressens said.

"If you give a small molecule which stimulates the pathway, in a way you reverse the toxicity of the steroid, and if you reverse the effect on growth, the cerebellum goes back to normal size," he said. "There is potential for application in humans, but it's still a long time from clinical applications, maybe 5 to 10 years."

More information

The March of Dimes has more about preventing premature births.

SOURCES: Emily Tam, M.D., assistant professor, neurology and pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco; Pierre Gressens, professor, perinatal neurology, Centre for the Developing Brain, Imperial College, London, and lab chief, INSERM, Paris; Oct. 19, 2011, Science Translational Medicine

Copyright©2010 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Steroids Could Harm Hearts Pumping Ability
2. Study finds post-transplant patients off steroids have fewer cardiovascular events
3. Fountain of youth steroids could protect against heart disease
4. IV Steroids May Be Overkill in COPD Patients
5. Inhaled steroids increase diabetes risk, say Lady Davis Institute researchers
6. Steroids to treat asthma: How safe are they?
7. For Severe Sinusitis, Oral Steroids an Option, Study Says
8. Use of topical corticosteroids in children with eczema does not have negative side effects
9. Asthma Pills Work as Well as Inhaled Steroids: Study
10. Corticosteroids May Speed Pneumonia Recovery in Some
11. Oral steroids linked to severe vitamin D deficiency in nationwide study
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Steroids Given to Preemies May Harm Brain Growth: Study 
(Date:10/13/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... October 13, 2017 , ... Global Healthcare ... scenic Alexandria Park in Milford, NJ. This free event, sponsored by Global Healthcare ... activity. The fun run is geared towards children of all ages; it is ...
(Date:10/13/2017)... ... ... “The Journey: From the Mountains to the Mission Field”: the story of ... Philippines. “The Journey: From the Mountains to the Mission Field” is the creation of ... taught all ages and currently teaches a class of ladies at her church, which ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... Planet Fitness, one of the largest ... its plans to open a flagship location in Covington, LA at 401 N. U.S. ... Go store next to Office Depot in the Holiday Square shopping center. Its location ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... Asante, a nationally recognized health ... expanded their existing home health joint venture through an agreement, effective October 1, ... joint venture home health company with Asante, delivering clinically integrated care, for the ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... Washington, D.C. (PRWEB) , ... October 12, 2017 , ... ... of their peers in Washington, D.C., for the 49th Congress of the International ... Ph.D ., Vice President of the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... -- Hill-Rom Holdings, Inc. ("Hill-Rom") (NYSE: HRC), today provided an ... Puerto Rico , where the company ... Following a comprehensive onsite assessment, ... damage, temporary loss of power and minimal water damage ... operations have resumed, and the company expects to return ...
(Date:10/7/2017)... , Oct. 6, 2017   Provista, ... more than $100 billion in purchasing power, today announced ... and information. The Newsroom is the online ... industry trends, infographics, expert bios, news releases, slideshows and ... access to a wealth of resources at their fingertips, ...
(Date:10/4/2017)... , Oct. 4, 2017  According to the Centers for Disease Control ... of October . PhysicianOne Urgent Care is helping communities across ... NY , by offering no-cost* flu shots through the end of ... by certain health insurance regulations. ... best time to get a flu shot is by the end of ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: