Two experts drew on both personal experience and extant literature in the debate “Steroids for Pneumonia and Sepsis … Do You Believe?” on Tuesday.
Daniel Dressler, MD, MSC, SFHM, of Emory University, Atlanta, and Daniel J. Brotman, MD, SFHM, director of the hospitalist program at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, used a series of case studies to illustrate the conundrum. Despite their “pro” and “con” stances, though, both agreed in the end: First, do no harm.
There are no blanket recommendations for the use of steroids for pneumonia, because historically, studies have come to varied conclusions. However, Dr. Dressler, who advocated for the medications, said in an interview that recent publications paint a more complete picture.
“I think the newer studies in 2015 have made us more comfortable, because they look like there is more benefit” for steroids, especially among more severely ill patients, he noted. These international studies added more than 800 cases to the literature. A Spanish trial randomized 120 patients with high C-reactive protein to placebo or 0.5 mg/kg methylpred-nisolone every 12 hours for 5 days. There were fewer treatment failures in the prednisone group (13% vs. 31%), and fewer adverse clinical outcomes of intubation, shock, or death (3% vs. 14%). The number needed to treat to prevent one event was just six. ().
In addition, a Cochrane meta-analysis analyzed 13 randomized trials, comprising more than 2,000 hospitalized patients. It found consistently lower rates of mortality, acute respiratory distress syndrome, early treatment failure, and hyperglycemia ().