The role of corticosteroids in the management of critically ill patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): A meta-analysis of observational studies

Author(s): Kalyan Kumar Gangopadhyay, Jagat J Mukherjee, Binayak Sinha, Samit Ghosal

Objective: There are no controlled studies on the role of systemic corticosteroids (CS) in patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In the absence of high-quality evidence, understandably the recommendations from various organizations are cautious. Several randomized controlled trials are underway but shall take time to conclude. We therefore undertook a meta-analysis to ascertain the role of CS in the management of critically ill patients with COVID-19.

Design: Meta-analysis of observational studies.

Methods: Electronic databases, including Pubmed, Cochrane library and Embase, were searched, using the keywords of interest and the PICO search technique, from inception to 12th April 2020. Studies highlighting the use of CS in coronavirus infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and COVID-19 were selected based on pre-determined inclusion criteria. Data was extracted into an excel sheet and transferred to comprehensive meta-analysis software version 3, Biostat Inc., Englewood, NJ, USA, for analysis.

Result: Five studies with SARS-CoV-2 infection were included in the meta-analysis. The rate ratio (RR) for mortality in patients with SARSCoV-2 infection was 1.26 (95% CI: 0.96-1.65, I2: 74.46), indicating lack of benefit of CS therapy on mortality in critically ill patients with COVID-19. The RR for mortality on analysis of the three studies that particularly reported on patients with significant pulmonary compromise secondary to SARS-CoV-2 infection was neutral (RR: 0.91, 95% CI: 0.63- 1.33, I2: 63.38).

Conclusions: The use of CS in critically ill patients with COVID-19 did not improve or worsen mortality. Pending further information from controlled studies, CS can be used in critically ill patients with COVID-19 with ‘critical illness related corticosteroid insufficiency’ and moderate to severe ARDS without the risk of increased mortality.

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