Background: Administration of glucocorticoids might reduce mortality in patients with severe COVID-19 but have adverse cardiometabolic effects. Objectives: to investigate the effect of systemic administration of glucocorticoids on cardiovascular complications and all-cause mortality in patients hospitalised with respiratory viral infections, including COVID-19, SARS, MERS and influenza. Methods: We identified randomised trials published prior to July 28th, 2021. The Mantel-Haenszel random effects method and the Hartung and Knapp adjustment were used to obtain pooled estimates of treatment effect with 95% confidence intervals. Results: No randomised trials of glucocorticoids for SARS, MERS or influenza reported relevant outcomes. We included eleven COVID-19 randomised trials (8,109 patients).Overall, compared to placebo or standard care, glucocorticoids were not associated with a reduction of in-hospital mortality (p=0.09). In a pre-specified sub-analysis, in-hospital mortality was reduced by 19% when follow-up was restricted to 14 days from randomisation (5/11 trials, 1,329 patients, p=0.02). With longer follow-up (9/11 trials, 7,874 patients), administration of glucocorticoids was associated with a trend to benefit for those requiring mechanical ventilation (RR 0.86; 95% CI 0.57-1.27) but possible harm for those not receiving oxygen at randomisation (RR 1.27; 95% CI 1.00 – 1.61), an effect that was significantly different amongst subgroups (p = 0.0359). Glucocorticoids reduced the risk of worsening renal function by 37% (4/11 trials); reported rate of other cardiovascular complications was low. Conclusions: Administration of systemic glucocorticoids to patients hospitalised with COVID-19 does not lower mortality overall but may reduce it in those requiring respiratory support and increase it in those who do not.

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Caiazzo, E., Rezig, A., Bruzzese, D., Ialenti, A., Cicala, C., Cleland, J., Guzik, T., Maffia, P. & Pellicori, P. 2022, 'Systemic administration of glucocorticoids, cardiovascular complications and mortality in patients hospitalised with COVID-19, SARS, MERS or influenza: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised trials', Pharmacological Research, 176, article no: 106053. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.phrs.2021.106053

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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