Main Article Content

A review of antenatal corticosteroid use in premature neonates in a middle-income country

A Laher
D.E. Ballot
T Ramdin
T Chirwa


Background. Antenatal corticosteroid (ANS) use in premature neonates has become a standard of practice. However, there is low ANS coverage in low- to middle-income countries (LMICs). Recent studies have questioned the efficacy of ANSs in such countries.

Objective. To review the use of ANSs in preterm neonates at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital (CMJAH), South Africa.

Methods. This was a retrospective observational study of all neonates with a birth weight of 500 - 1 800 g born at CMJAH between 1 January 2013 and 30 June 2016. Neonatal and maternal characteristics of neonates exposed to ANSs were compared with those of neonates who were not exposed.

Results. The ANS coverage of the final sample was 930/2 109 (44.1%). The mean (standard deviation (SD)) birth weight was 1 292.4 (323.2) g and the mean gestational age 30.2 (2.9) weeks. Attending antenatal care and maternal hypertension were associated with increased use of ANSs, whereas vaginal delivery was associated with decreased use. In neonates weighing <1 500 g, the use of ANSs was associated with decreased mortality, decreased intraventricular haemorrhage and decreased patent ductus arteriosus. There was no association between ANSs and respiratory distress syndrome, necrotising enterocolitis, sepsis or need for respiratory support in all premature neonates, and no association with improved outcomes in those weighing ≥1 500 g.

Conclusion. The benefits of ANSs in terms of neonatal morbidity in this study were not as marked as those published in high-income countries. A randomised controlled trial may be indicated in LMICs.