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The effect of antenatal corticosteroid use on offspring cardiovascular function: A systematic review.

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BACKGROUND: Antenatal corticosteroids (ACS) are recommended in threatened preterm labour to improve short-term neonatal outcome. Preclinical animal studies suggest detrimental effects of ACS exposure on offspring cardiac development; their effects in humans are unknown. OBJECTIVES: To systematically review the human clinical literature to determine the effects of ACS on offspring cardiovascular function. SEARCH STRATEGY: A systematic review was performed according to PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines in MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane databases. SELECTION CRITERIA: Offspring who had been exposed to ACS during fetal life, in comparison with those not receiving steroids, those receiving a placebo or population data, were included. Studies not performed in humans or that did not assess cardiovascular function were excluded. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two authors independently screened the studies, extracted the data and assessed the quality of the studies. Results were combined descriptively and analysed using a standardised Excel form. MAIN RESULTS: Twenty-six studies including 1921 patients were included, most of which were cohort studies of mixed quality. The type of ACS exposure, gestational age at exposure, dose and number of administrations varied widely. Offspring cardiovascular outcomes were assessed from 1 day to 36 years postnatally. The most commonly assessed parameter was arterial blood pressure (18 studies), followed by echocardiography (eight studies), heart rate (five studies), electrocardiogram (ECG, three studies) and cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI, one study). There were no clinically significant effects of ACS exposure on offspring blood pressure. However, there were insufficient studies assessing cardiac structure and function using echocardiography or cardiac MRI to be able to determine an effect. CONCLUSIONS: The administration of ACS is not associated with long-term effects on blood pressure in exposed human offspring. The effects on cardiac structure and other measures of cardiac function were unclear because of the small number, heterogeneity and mixed quality of the studies. Given the preclinical and human evidence of potential harm following ACS exposure, there is a need for further research to assess central cardiac function in human offspring exposed to ACS.


Funder: UCLH Biomedical Research Centre; Id:


antenatal corticosteroids, blood pressure, cardiovascular, offspring, Infant, Newborn, Humans, Pregnancy, Female, Adrenal Cortex Hormones, Prenatal Care, Gestational Age, Child Development

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British Heart Foundation (RG/17/8/32924)