Hydrocortisone administration for the treatment of refractory hypotension in critically ill newborns

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The purpose of this observation was to evaluate the safety and efficacy of hydrocortisone (HC) for the treatment of refractory hypotension in term and preterm infants. A secondary purpose was to determine the utility of serum cortisol concentrations in predicting the response to treatment.

Study Design:

This is a retrospective observational study of 117 infants treated with a standardized HC protocol for refractory hypotension. Refractory hypotension was defined as a mean arterial pressure (MAP) less than the gestational age (GA) despite a total inotrope dose of 20 μg per kg per min. Baseline serum cortisol concentrations were determined prior to treatment with stress dose HC.


Treatment with HC increased the MAP at 2, 6, 12 and 24 h after initiation, decreased the total inotrope dose at 6, 12 and 24 h, and was associated with resolution of oliguria. There was no correlation between the pretreatment baseline cortisol concentration and GA, birth weight or the response to treatment. The incidence of grades III to IV intraventricular hemorrhage, periventricular leukomalacia, bacterial or fungal sepsis and spontaneous intestinal perforation (SIP) after HC treatment was similar to institutional historic controls prior to institution of this standardized HC protocol.


HC treatment was associated with a rapid resolution of cardiovascular compromise. The incidence of significant side effects was similar to that in previously published reports, including a comparable incidence of SIP. On the basis of our results, measuring baseline serum cortisol concentration to guide the management of refractory hypotension is unwarranted.

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