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Harris C, Bisquera A, Zivanovic S, Lunt A, Calvert S, Marlow N, Peacock JL, Greenough A. Postnatal dexamethasone exposure and lung function in adolescents born very prematurely. PLoS One. 2020 Aug 7;15(8):e0237080. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0237080. PMID: 32764779; PMCID: PMC7413559.

We previously demonstrated corticosteroid administration on the neonatal intensive care unit was associated with reduced lung function at 11 to 14 years of age in children born very prematurely. The objective of this observational study was to assess if lung function remained impaired at 16 to 19 years of age in those who had received postnatal corticosteroids and whether the trajectory of lung function with increasing age differed between those who had and had not received corticosteroids. One hundred and fifty-nine children born prior to 29 weeks of gestational age had comprehensive lung function measurements; 49 had received postnatal dexamethasone. Lung function outcomes were compared between those who had and had not received postnatal dexamethasone after adjustment for neonatal factors. Forced expiratory flow at 75%, 50%, 25% and 25-75% of the expired vital capacity, forced expiratory volume in one second, peak expiratory flow and forced vital capacity and lung volumes (total lung capacity and residual volume) were assessed. The majority of results were significantly lower in those who received dexamethasone (between 0.61 to 0.78 standard deviations). Lung function reduced as the number of courses of dexamethasone increased. Between 11 and 14 years and 16 to 19 years, lung function improved in the unexposed group, but forced expiratory flow at 75% of the expired vital capacity and forced expiratory volume in one second deteriorated in those who had received postnatal corticosteroids (p = 0.0006). These results suggest that prematurely born young people who received postnatal corticosteroids may be at risk of premature onset of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

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