Transplacental versus direct fetal corticosteroid treatment for accelerating fetal lung maturation where there is a risk of preterm birth

Debby P Utama, Caroline A Crowther
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011 September 7, (9): CD008981

BACKGROUND: Despite major advances in medical technology, the incidence of preterm birth remains high. The use of antenatal corticosteroid administered transplacentally, by intramuscular injection to women at risk of preterm birth, has reduced the incidence of respiratory distress syndrome and increased the survival rates of preterm infants. However, this intervention also comes with its own risks and side effects. Animal studies and early studies in pregnant women at risk of preterm birth have reported the use of an alternative route of administration, by direct intramuscular injection of corticosteroid into the fetus under ultrasound guidance, in an attempt to minimise the side effects profile. Direct fetal corticosteroid administration may have benefits over maternal administration in terms of safety and efficacy.

OBJECTIVES: To assess if different routes of corticosteroid administration (maternal versus direct fetal) have effects on maternal health, and the risk of stillbirth, neonatal, perinatal, infant and child mortality and morbidity.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (16 June 2011) and the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) (16 June 2011).

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials comparing maternal with direct fetal routes of antenatal corticosteroid administration in women at risk of preterm birth.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: We did not perform any data collection or analyses.

MAIN RESULTS: We did not identify any eligible randomised controlled trials to include in this review.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: The available clinical studies carried out so far on animals and human have shown that direct intramuscular injection of corticosteroid into the fetus under ultrasound guidance is feasible, but data on health outcomes are lacking. Therefore, uncertainty persists as to which method could provide better efficacy and safety profile. Randomised controlled trials are required focusing on the benefits and harms of transplacental versus direct fetal corticosteroid treatment. Until the uncertainties have been answered, it is advisable to stay with the current standard of antenatal transplacental maternally administered corticosteroid treatment.

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