Steroids for sepsis in kids

A small retrospective study suggests adrenal insufficiency is common in kids with septic shock, and that steroid administration in these children was associated with a decrease in vasoactive drug requirements.

INTRODUCTION: Adrenal insufficiency may be common in adults and children with vasopressor-resistant shock. We developed a protocolized approach to low-dose adrenocorticotropin testing and empirical low-dose glucocorticoid/mineralocorticoid supplementation in children with systemic inflammatory response syndrome and persistent hypotension following fluid resuscitation and vasopressor infusion.

HYPOTHESIS: We hypothesized that absolute and relative adrenal insufficiency was common in children with systemic inflammatory response syndrome requiring vasopressor support and that steroid administration would be associated with decreased vasopressor need.

METHODS: Retrospective review of pediatric patients with systemic inflammatory response syndrome and vasopressor-dependent shock receiving protocol-based adrenocorticotropin testing and low-dose steroid supplementation. The incidence of absolute and relative adrenal insufficiency was determined using several definitions. Vasopressor dose requirements were evaluated before, and following, initiation of corticosteroids.

RESULTS: Seventy-eight patients met inclusion criteria for systemic inflammatory response syndrome and shock; 40 had septic shock. Median age was 84 months (range, 0.5-295). By adrenocorticotropin testing, 44 (56%) had absolute adrenal insufficiency, 39 (50%) had relative adrenal insufficiency, and 69 (88%) had either form of adrenal insufficiency. Adrenal insufficiency incidence was significantly higher in children >2 yrs (p = .0209). Therapeutic interventions included median 80-mL/kg fluid resuscitation; 65% of patients required dopamine, 58% norepinephrine, and 49% dopamine plus norepinephrine. With steroid supplementation, median dopamine dose decreased from 10 to 4 μg/kg/min at 4 hrs (p = .0001), and median dose of norepinephrine decreased from 0.175 μg/kg/min to 0.05 μg/kg/min at 4 hrs (p = .039).

CONCLUSIONS: Absolute and relative adrenal insufficiency was prevalent in this cohort of children with systemic inflammatory response syndrome and vasopressor-dependent shock and increased with age. Introduction of steroids produced a significant reduction in vasopressor duration and dosage. Use of low-dose adrenocorticotropin testing may help further delineate populations who require steroid supplementation.

Incidence of adrenal insufficiency and impact of corticosteroid supplementation in critically ill children with systemic inflammatory syndrome and vasopressor-dependent shock
Crit Care Med. 2011 May;39(5):1145-50

One thought on “Steroids for sepsis in kids”

  1. It will be interesting to see the RCT on this, but my understanding is that reduced vasopressor requirements is a feature of steroid treatment in septic adults too. The issue seems to be that it doesn’t necessarily translate into better outcomes.

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