Beneficial effect of intravenous dexamethasone in children with mild to moderately severe acute chest syndrome complicating sickle cell disease

J C Bernini, Z R Rogers, E S Sandler, J S Reisch, C T Quinn, G R Buchanan
Blood 1998 November 1, 92 (9): 3082-9
Acute chest syndrome (ACS) in patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) has historically been managed with oxygen, antibiotics, and blood transfusions. Recently high-dose corticosteroid therapy was shown to reduce the duration of hospitalization in children with SCD and vaso-occlusive crisis. Therefore, we chose to assess the use of glucocorticoids in ACS. We conducted a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy and toxicity of intravenous dexamethasone (0.3 mg/kg every 12 hours x 4 doses) in children with SCD hospitalized with mild to moderately severe ACS. Forty-three evaluable episodes of ACS occurred in 38 children (median age, 6.7 years). Twenty-two patients received dexamethasone and 21 patients received placebo. There were no statistically significant differences in demographic, clinical, or laboratory characteristics between the two groups. Mean hospital stay was shorter in the dexamethasone-treated group (47 hours v 80 hours; P = .005). Dexamethasone therapy prevented clinical deterioration and reduced the need for blood transfusions (P < .001 and = .013, respectively). Mean duration of oxygen and analgesic therapy, number of opioid doses, and the duration of fever was also significantly reduced in the dexamethasone-treated patients. Of seven patients readmitted within 72 hours after discharge (six after dexamethasone; P = .095), only one had respiratory complications (P = 1.00). No side effects clearly related to dexamethasone were observed. In a stepwise multiple linear regression analysis, gender and previous episodes of ACS were the only variables that appeared to predict response to dexamethasone, as measured by lengh of hospital stay. Intravenous dexamethasone has a beneficial effect in children with SCD hospitalized with mild to moderately severe acute chest syndrome. Further study of this therapeutic modality is indicated.

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