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Dexamethasone treatment during ventilator dependency: possible life threatening gastrointestinal complications.
  1. E A O'Neil,
  2. W J Chwals,
  3. M D O'Shea,
  4. C S Turner
  1. Department of Surgery, Bowman Gray School of Medicine, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157-1095.


    Corticosteroids in high doses have been used effectively to decrease the duration of ventilator dependency in very low birthweight infants at risk for chronic lung disease. Randomised prospective studies have shown benefit, with only minimal complications being reported. However, review of our experience over 2.5 years with high dose steroids in 80 premature neonates yielded three major complications: one case each of perforated duodenal ulcer, perforated gastric ulcer, and upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage. Two of the three patients died. Thus the use of steroids in neonates may not be without risk, and significant complications can occur. When high dose corticosteroids are to be used in very low birthweight neonates, H2 receptor antagonist treatment and gastric pH monitoring are recommended. The physician must remain alert to the possibilities of upper gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcer perforation in these patients.

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