In animals administration of corticosteroids during fetal life gives rise to a reduction in brain growth and altered animal behavior. The effect of corticosteroids on the developing human brain is not clear. We determined the quantity and quality of spontaneous movements (general movements -GM's-, twitches -TW-) in 15 preterm infants (gestational age 27.7±0.9 weeks, birthweight 994±192 grams) which were treated with dexamethasone for 1 to 6 weeks starting at the 2nd-4th week because of a severe bronchopulmonary dysplasia. video-recordings of one hour were made prior to the course of dexamethasone therapy, after 24 and 48 hours of treatment, and subsequently weekly. Results on quantity are summarized in the table.
The quality of general movements impaired dramatically after starting the course of dexamethasone therapy, on day 2 even more than on day 1. The GM's became slower and monotonous, with a reduction in complexity and elegance. This effect remained during and even after treatment.
CONCLUSION: Our data demonstrate that dexamethasone treatment in preterm infants indeed effects brain function. The meaning of these findings for the further psychomotor development is not yet clear.
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Bos, A., Asperen, R., Prechtl, H. et al. 28 EFFECTS OF DEXAMETHASONE TREATMENT ON SPONTANEOUS MOTOR BEHAVIOUR IN PRETERM INFANTS WITH BRONCHOPULMONARY DYSPLASIA. Pediatr Res 36, 7 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1203/00006450-199407000-00028