Hydrocortisone Fights Severe Pneumonia
The drug could prove a lifeline for very ill patients
THURSDAY, Feb. 3, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- Treatment with infusions of the corticosteroid drug hydrocortisone brings significant improvement to patients with severe pneumonia, according to a study from Italy.
It found that a seven-day course of low-dose hydrocortisone infusion sped patients' recovery from community-acquired pneumonia and prevented complications due to sepsis, a potentially fatal blood infection.
The findings appear in the February issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pneumonia remains a major cause of illness and death in the United States, responsible for more than 1 million hospitalizations each year.
The study, led by Dr. Marco Confalonieri of the University of Trieste, included 46 patients with severe community-acquired pneumonia. One group of 23 patients received 200 mg of infused hydrocortisone intravenously over seven days, while the other 23 received a sterile saline placebo in an equal volume.
"During the seven days of treatment, the clinical response of the two groups diverged," Confalonieri said in a prepared statement.
In the group that did not receive hydrocortisone, one patient succumbed to fatal septic shock within three days of admission and nine more developed septic shock complicated by respiratory distress, the researchers report.
"In contrast, in the hydrocortisone group, the two patients who were admitted with septic shock were weaned off [treatment for sepsis] by Day 3 and 5, and no other patient developed sepsis-related complications. Hydrocortisone treatment appeared to be associated with a protective effect against delayed septic shock," Confalonieri concluded.
Hydrocortisone may prove useful in fighting severe pneumonia, which is increasingly difficult to treat despite advances in antimicrobial therapy, the researchers say.
The American Lung Association has more about pneumonia.