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Mayo Clinic Report: Steroids May Shorten Hospital Stay for Pneumonia Patients

But more study needed to support routine steroid use (Feb. 28)

Patients with pneumonia may spend fewer days in the hospital if they are given steroids along with antibiotics and supportive care. That’s the finding of a Mayo Clinic analysis of eight randomized, controlled clinical trials involving more than 1,100 patients. The results were published in the March issue of the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

“Given that the average hospital stay for community-acquired pneumonia can range from 9 to 23 days, the prospect of speeding recovery, even by a day or two, is helpful,” said co-author M. Rizwan Sohail, MD, a Mayo infectious-disease specialist.

Pneumonia is a major health risk, especially in the elderly, the very young, and those with chronic lung diseases. According to recent studies, 5% to 15% of pneumonia patients die from the disease, depending on its severity and the treatment administered.

The Mayo researchers reviewed eight clinical trials conducted from 2000 to 2011. Most of the research studied patients between 60 and 80 years of age. While steroid use did not prevent deaths, for those who survived the pneumonia, it reduced their hospital stays an average of 1.21 days.

The researchers say that while the findings are significant, the data were not strong enough for them to recommend the routine use of steroids for pneumonia patients; more study is needed. They add that it is reasonable to continue any steroid drugs that patients may already be taking.

A similar but unrelated study, published last month in PLoS One, found that the use of certain lipid-lowering drugs (statins) may have a role in reducing the risk of developing community-acquired pneumonia and associated mortality. That study reviewed 18 clinical trials. The evidence, however, was considered less reliable than that of the new Mayo report because of design issues, bias, and other factors in the original studies.

Source: Mayo Clinic; February 28, 2013.

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