US experts have now recommended that pediatric units discontinue the use of dexamethasone on extremely low-birth-weight babies.
Spontaneous intestinal perforation increased from 4% to 13% in babies given dexamethasone
The study, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the rate of spontaneous intestinal perforation increased from 4 per cent to 13 per cent among babies who were given the drug.
Doctors working with the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) recruited 220 infants from 13 centers for the trial, which compared dexamethasone with placebo.
Dr Linda Wright, a program official with NICHD, said the researchers had hoped to find a way to minimize side-effects by reducing the dose of the drug.
Dr Duane Alexander, director of the NICHD, said, "This study shows that early moderate doses of
dexamethasone do not increase the survival of preterm infants, or prevent chronic lung disease, and may actually endanger their health."
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