The two studies, published in the Sept. 20 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, were carried out to assess if there were any longer-term effects from the repeated steroid injections.
The Australian study included 1,047 two-year olds -- 521 had been exposed to repeated steroid injections before birth and 526 were exposed to a placebo. Mothers who were given repeated steroid injections in this study received an initial course of corticosteroids followed by a weekly 11.4 milligram injection each week the mother was considered at-risk for preterm delivery or until 32 weeks of gestation.
Rates of major disability-free survival were 84.4 percent in the steroid group and 81 percent in the placebo group. At two years, there were no longer any statistically significant differences in size. There were also no differences in blood pressure, use of health services or child behavior scores.
In Wapner's study, which was supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the researchers included 486 children between the ages of 2 and 3 years old who had either received repeated steroids in-utero or a placebo. In this study, the repeat doses of corticosteroids were higher than in the Australian study. The injections included 12 milligrams of steroids given twice weekly for as long as the women were at-risk of preterm labor.
The researchers found no significant differences in growth or in neurodevelopmental outcomes. But, six children in the repeated steroid group had cerebral palsy, compared to just one in the placebo group.
There was no finding of additional cerebral palsy in the Australian study.
Dr. Alan Stiles, a neonatologist and professor and chairman of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said, "I don't think the question [of whether or not the stero
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