Hydrocortisone Therapy in Catecholamine-Resistant Pediatric Septic Shock: A Pragmatic Analysis of Clinician Practice and Association With Outcomes*

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Abstract

Objectives:

The 2012 Surviving Sepsis Campaign pediatric guidelines recommend stress dose hydrocortisone in children experiencing catecholamine-dependent septic shock with suspected or proven absolute adrenal insufficiency. We evaluated whether stress dose hydrocortisone therapy in children with catecholamine dependent septic shock correlated with random serum total cortisol levels and was associated with improved outcomes.

Design:

Retrospective cohort study.

Setting:

Non-cardiac PICU.

Patients:

Critically ill children (1 mo to 18 yr) admitted between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2013, with catecholamine dependent septic shock who had random serum total cortisol levels measured prior to potential stress dose hydrocortisone therapy.

Interventions:

None.

Measurements and Main Results:

The cohort was dichotomized to random serum total cortisol less than 18 mcg/dL and greater than or equal to 18 mcg/dL. Associations of stress dose hydrocortisone with outcomes: PICU mortality, PICU and hospital length of stay, ventilator-free days, and vasopressor-free days were examined. Seventy children with catecholamine-dependent septic shock and measured random serum total cortisol levels were eligible (16% PICU mortality). Although 43% (30/70) had random serum total cortisol less than 18 μg/dL, 60% (42/70) received stress dose hydrocortisone. Children with random serum total cortisol less than 18 μg/dL had lower severity of illness and lower Vasopressor Inotrope Scores than those with random serum total cortisol greater than or equal to 18 μg/dL (all p < 0.05). Children with stress dose hydrocortisone had higher severity of illness and PICU mortality than those without stress dose hydrocortisone (all p < 0.05). Mean random serum total cortisol levels were similar in children with and without stress dose hydrocortisone (21.1 vs 18.7 μg/dL; p = 0.69). In children with random serum total cortisol less than 18 μg/dL, stress dose hydrocortisone was associated with greater PICU and hospital length of stay and fewer ventilator-free days (all p < 0.05). In children with random serum total cortisol greater than 18 μg/dL, stress dose hydrocortisone was associated with greater PICU mortality and fewer ventilator-free days and vasopressor-free days (all p < 0.05).

Conclusions:

Stress dose hydrocortisone therapy in children with catecholamine-dependent septic shock correlated more with severity of illness than random serum total cortisol levels and was associated with worse outcomes, irrespective of random serum total cortisol levels.

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