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Systemic corticosteroids in acute chest syndrome: friend or foe?

Acute chest syndrome(ACS) is the most common pulmonary complication of sickle cell disease (SCD), the second most common cause of hospitalization and the primary cause of death in patients with sickle cell disease. Its highest prevalence is in early childhood. The pathogenesis of ACS is unknown but many predisposing conditions and mechanisms have been implicated including infections, pulmonary fat embolism, asthma and ischemic reperfusion injury. These conditions are associated with inflammation and therefore, the use of corticosteroids has been advocated because of their anti-inflammatory properties. Although, significant benefits from their use have been shown, there is great reluctance in using them because of reports of serious adverse effects, such as readmission to the hospital due rebound pain crisis, stroke, renal infarction, coma and even death. The current article reviews the evidence in favor and against the use of corticosteroids in ACS. Emphasis is given on the potential benefits vs. risks among the different types of corticosteroids, the importance of the dosing regimen and the role of underlying co-morbidities.

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