Background: Extremely low birth weight (ELBW) infants comprise a fragile population at risk for neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDD). Systemic steroids were previously associated with NDD, but more recent studies suggest hydrocortisone (HCT) may improve survival without increasing NDD. However, the effects of HCT on head growth adjusted for illness severity during NICU hospitalization are unknown. Thus, we hypothesize that HCT will protect head growth, accounting for illness severity using a modified neonatal Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (M-nSOFA) score. Methods: We conducted a retrospective study that included infants born at 23–29 weeks gestational age (GA) and < 1000 g. Our study included 73 infants, 41% of whom received HCT. Results: We found negative correlations between growth parameters and age, similar between HCT and control patients. HCT-exposed infants had lower GA but similar normalized birth weights; HCT-exposed infants also had higher illness severity and longer lengths of hospital stay. We found an interaction between HCT exposure and illness severity on head growth, such that infants exposed to HCT had better head growth compared to those not exposed to HCT when adjusted for illness severity. Conclusion: These findings emphasize the importance of considering patient illness severity and suggest that HCT use may offer additional benefits not previously considered. Impact: This is the first study to assess the relationship between head growth and illness severity in extremely preterm infants with extremely low birth weights during their initial NICU hospitalization.Infants exposed to hydrocortisone (HCT) were overall more ill than those not exposed, yet HCT exposed infants had better preserved head growth relative to illness severity.Better understanding of the effects of HCT exposure on this vulnerable population will help guide more informed decisions on the relative risks and benefits for HCT use.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health