Pulse dexamethasone does not impair growth and body composition of very low birth weight infants

Carol H. Gilmour, Joan M. Sentipal-Walerius, Judith G. Jones, Jeanine M. Doyle, Beverly S. Brozanski, Michael J. Balsan, Francis B. Mimouni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objective: Evaluation of repeated pulses of dexamethasone (PDEX), given to improve cardiopulmonary outcome, on growth of very low birth weight (VLBW, <1500 g) infants. Methods: In this prospective, double-blind, randomized clinical trial, VLBW infants mechanically ventilated at 1 week of age received intravenous PDEX or saline placebo (P) for 3 days, every 10 days, until no supplemental oxygen or ventilation was required or 36 weeks postmenstrual age (PMA). Weight gain, fluid intake, caloric intake, and serum glucose were monitored throughout the study. Nutritional assessment at 36 weeks PMA consisted of weight, length, head circumference, skinfold thickness measures, body composition by total body electrical conductance, and bone mineral content (BMC) by single beam photon absorptiometry. Results: 37 PDEX and 31 P infants survived at least 36 days and completed the protocol. Average daily weight gain, fluid intake and caloric intake were not different between groups. The pattern of weight gain (g/kg/day, mean ± SD) was different: PDEX infants showed significant growth delay during (3.0 ± 11.4) and immediately after (7.8 ± 8.7) each pulse, with subsequent growth acceleration (18.3 ± 8.2) until the next steroid pulse. In contrast, growth rate of P infants was constant (12.6 ± 3.7) (p = 0.04). Hyperglycemia requiring insulin therapy occurred only in the PDEX group (10/37). The catch-up growth noted between pulses in the PDEX group was explained only in part by insulin therapy. At 36 weeks PMA, there were no differences between groups in body size, composition, or BMC. Conclusion: PDEX negatively affected glucose metabolism and growth patterns during and immediately after drug exposure. However, assessment near term gestational age showed similar body composition and size in both groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-462
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American College of Nutrition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 1995


  • Body composition
  • Bone mineralization
  • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia
  • Glucocorticosteroid
  • Growth
  • Very low birth weight infants


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