hasone, a steroid prepared with sulfur. However, clinicians do not commonly use that steroid anymore and have largely switched to sulfur-free steroids, such as betamethasone. This study was based on infants who received betamethasone prior to birth, and they did not show the same adverse effects as previous studies.
"Perhaps these babies didn’t react the same way as in other studies because the timing of brain maturation is different. It could also be because these babies received a different kind of steroid that did not contain sulfur," Amin said. "Preliminarily, it looks like we might be able to use multiple courses of steroids, but we need to do more studies to make sure the treatment is safe and effective."
The study, which was performed by analyzing data collected in the University’s neonatal intensive care unit at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong between 1996 and 1998, included 174 babies who were born at 28 to 32 weeks. Their brain functioning was measured by a neurological assessment given within 24 hours of birth called the auditory brainstem evoked response (ABR), a non-invasive test that measures the brain’s response to sounds.
"We considered ABR a window into the whole brain," Amin said. "And it doesn’t look like the brain is affected in infants who received multiple courses of betamethasone steroids."
There were no significant differences in the brain’s responses to the testing between the 50 babies who received one course of steroids and the 29 who received two or more courses, even when controlled for gestational age, birth weight, race and exposure to illegal drugs. There were also no significant differences between the 51 infants who received no steroids and those who did. The only medical difference between those infants who received one course and those who received more was that the ones who received more were less likely to need mechanical ventilation the day they were born.
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