Objective. To assess the effects of early postnatal dexamethasone therapy on hematologic values in preterm infants. Materials and Methods. We reviewed the hematologic data of 179 preterm infants who participated in a double-blind clinical trial of early postnatal dexamethasone therapy (<12 hours after birth) for the prevention of chronic lung disease. One group (86 infants) received saline and the other group (93 infants) received dexamethasone. Dexamethasone was given intravenously every 12 hours in tapering doses: 0.25 mg/kg on days 1 to 7, 0.12 mg/kg on days 8 to 14, 0.05 mg/kg on days 15 to 21, and 0.02 mg/kg on days 21 to 28. Blood samples were obtained on days 0, 3, 7, 10, 14, 21, and 28. None of the infants received prenatal steroid therapy. Results. Multiple regression analysis revealed significant differences in the values versus time curves of the white blood cell, neutrophil, lymphocyte, basophil, and eosinophil counts between the two groups. The white blood cell count was significantly higher in the dexamethasone group on days 7 through 14, and this was associated with significantly higher numbers of segmented neutrophils and band forms and significantly lower numbers of lymphocytes and eosinophils. The hematocrit and platelet counts were similar in the two groups throughout most of the trial. Except for platelet count, steroid therapy did not alter the hematologic values for infants with bacteremia. Conclusion. Dexamethasone affects white blood cell, segmented neutrophil, lymphocyte, basophil, and eosinophil counts in neonates. This should be taken into consideration when evaluating preterm infants who are receiving dexamethasone.
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