Background: Dexamethasone treatment is associated with an increased risk of cerebral palsy (CP). Early hydrocortisone (HC) treatment may decrease the incidence of bronchopulmonary dysplasia; however, the long-term effects are still under evaluation. Follow-up of randomized studies concerning early HC treatment is essential to confirm the long-term safety. Objective: We hypothesized that early HC treatment in very preterm infants does not impair the neurologic outcome. Methods: We report follow-up data from a randomized trial of early HC given for 10 days. Before the HC or placebo treatment, serum cortisol levels were measured. Receiver-operating characteristic was defined. Values below the median were classified as low endogenous cortisol and those above the median as high endogenous cortisol. A meta-analysis was performed. Results: Altogether 98% of the 46 surviving infants participated in a follow-up study at a corrected age of 2 years. The growth characteristics were similar between the study groups. The developmental quotients (DQs) of the children with high endogenous cortisol and placebo treatment shortly after birth (100 ± 13) and those with low endogenous cortisol and HC (97 ± 7) were not lower than the DQs of the children with high endogenous cortisol and HC (92 ± 3) or low cortisol and placebo (96 ± 2). According to a meta-analysis of three available trials (411 children), the rate of CP and survival without neurosensory or cognitive impairment was not influenced by HC. Conclusion: Early low-dose HC administration had no adverse effects at 2 years of age. Further studies are required to define the target group for neonatal HC.

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