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Korean J Pediatr 2014 March;57(3) :101-109.
Published online 2014 March 15.       
Evidence for adverse effect of perinatal glucocorticoid use on the developing brain
Young Pyo Chang
Department of Pediatrics, Dankook University College of Medicine, Cheonan, Korea
Corresponding Author: Young Pyo Chang ,Tel: +82-41-550-3937, Fax: +82-41-550-3903, Email:
Copyright © 2014 by The Korean Pediatric Society
The use of glucocorticoids (GCs) in the perinatal period is suspected of being associated with adverse effects on long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes for preterm infants. Repeated administration of antenatal GCs to mothers at risk of preterm birth may adversely affect fetal growth and head circumference. Fetal exposure to excess GCs during critical periods of brain development may profoundly modify the limbic system (primarily the hippocampus), resulting in long-term effects on cognition, behavior, memory, co-ordination of the autonomic nervous system, and regulation of the endocrine system later in adult life. Postnatal GC treatment for chronic lung disease in premature infants, particularly involving the use of dexamethasone, has been shown to induce neurodevelopmental impairment and increases the risk of cerebral palsy. In contrast to studies involving postnatal dexamethasone, long-term follow-up studies for hydrocortisone therapy have not revealed adverse effects on neurodevelopmental outcomes. In experimental studies on animals, GCs has been shown to impair neurogenesis, and induce neuronal apoptosis in the immature brains of newborn animals. A recent study has demonstrated that dexamethasone-induced hypomyelination may result from the apoptotic degeneration of oligodendrocyte progenitors in the immature brain. Thus, based on clinical and experimental studies, there is enough evidence to advice caution regarding the use of GCs in the perinatal period; and moreover, the potential long-term effects of GCs on brain development need to be determined.
Keywords: Glucocorticoids | Dexamethasone | Hydrocortisone | Fetus | Newborn infant
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