Hydrocortisone treatment in early sepsis-associated acute respiratory distress syndrome

Tongyoo, S. et al.Critical Care. 20(329). Published online: 15 October 2016

Image source: LHcheM – Wikipedia // CC BY-SA 3.0

Background: Authors of recent meta-analyses have reported that prolonged glucocorticoid treatment is associated with significant improvements in patients with severe pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) of multifactorial etiology. A prospective randomized trial limited to patients with sepsis-associated ARDS is lacking. The objective of our study was to evaluate the efficacy of hydrocortisone treatment in sepsis-associated ARDS.

Methods: In this double-blind, single-center (Siriraj Hospital, Bangkok), randomized, placebo-controlled trial, we recruited adult patients with severe sepsis within 12 h of their meeting ARDS criteria. Patients were randomly assigned (1:1 ratio) to receive either hydrocortisone 50 mg every 6 h or placebo. The primary endpoint was 28-day all-cause mortality; secondary endpoints included survival without organ support on day 28.

Results: Over the course of 4 years, 197 patients were randomized to either hydrocortisone (n = 98) or placebo (n = 99) and were included in this intention-to-treat analysis. The treatment group had significant improvement in the ratio of partial pressure of oxygen in arterial blood to fraction of inspired oxygen and lung injury score (p = 0.01), and similar timing to removal of vital organ support (HR 0.74, 95 % CI 0.51–1.07; p = 0.107). After adjustment for significant covariates, day 28 survival was similar for the whole group (HR 0.80, 95 % CI 0.46–1.41; p = 0.44) and for the larger subgroup (n = 126) with Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II score <25 (HR 0.57, 95 % CI 0.24–1.36; p = 0.20). With the exception of hyperglycemia (80.6 % vs. 67.7 %; p = 0.04), the rate of adverse events was similar. Hyperglycemia had no impact on outcome.

Conclusions: In sepsis-associated ARDS, hydrocortisone treatment was associated with a significant improvement in pulmonary physiology, but without a significant survival benefit.

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