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Hydrocortisone Boosts Health of Critically Ill

ICU patients who received the drug were weaned off ventilators sooner, study found

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 1, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Hydrocortisone could improve the health of critically ill patients placed on ventilators, a new study finds.

Researchers in Taiwan studied 93 critically ill patients receiving mechanical ventilation. Of those, 70 were diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency, a common disorder in critically ill patients on mechanical ventilation. Adrenal insufficiency is associated with poorer outcomes and higher death rates.

The patients with adrenal insufficiency were divided into two groups: half were treated with hydrocortisone, while the other half received a saline solution placebo.

The group that received hydrocortisone achieved a 91.4 percent success rate in being able to be breathe without the ventilator, compared with 68.8 percent in the placebo group, the researchers report in the current issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"Ventilator weaning is the transitional period between total ventilatory support and spontaneous breathing and is a crucial issue in ICUs," study author Dr. Horng-Chyuan Lin of thedepartment of thoracic medicine at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taipei, said in a prepared statement.

"Rapid and successful ventilator weaning can shorten the length of stay, decrease morbidity and mortality, and reduce costs," Lin added.

He and his colleagues are currently conducting a larger, multi-center trial of hydrocortisone treatment in these kinds of patients.

More information

The American Thoracic Society has more about mechanical ventilation.

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, Feb. 1, 2006
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