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Effect of methylprednisolone treatment on COVID-19: An inverse probability of treatment weighting analysis

PLoS One. 2022 Jun 17;17(6):e0266901. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0266901. eCollection 2022.


OBJECTIVES: While corticosteroids have been hypothesized to exert protective benefits in patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, data remain mixed. This study sought to investigate the outcomes of methylprednisone administration in an Italian cohort of hospitalized patients with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection.

METHODS: Patients with confirmatory testing for SARS-CoV-2 were retrospectively enrolled from a tertiary university hospital in Milan, Italy from March 1st to April 30th, 2020 and divided into two groups by administration of corticosteroids. Methylprednisolone was administered to patients not responding to pharmacological therapy and ventilatory support at 0.5-1mg/kg/day for 4 to 7 days. Inverse probability of treatment weighting (IPTW) was used to adjust for baseline differences between the steroid and non-steroid cohorts via inverse probability of treatment weight. Primary outcomes included acute respiratory failure (ARF), shock, and 30-day mortality among surviving patients.

RESULTS: Among 311 patients enrolled, 71 patients received steroids and 240 did not receive steroids. The mean age was 63.1 years, 35.4% were female, and hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic pulmonary disease were present in 3.5%, 1.3%, 14.8% and 12.2% respectively. Crude analysis revealed no statistically significant reduction in the incidence of 30-day mortality (36,6% vs 21,7%; OR, 2.09; 95% CI, 1.18-3.70; p = 0.011), shock (2.8% vs 4.6%; OR, 0.60; 95% CI = 0.13-2.79; p = 0.514) or ARF (12.7% vs 15%; OR, 0.82; 95% CI = 0.38-1.80; p = 0.625) between the steroid and non-steroid groups. After IPTW analysis, the steroid-group had lower incidence of shock (0.9% vs 4.1%; OR, 0.21; 95% CI,0.06-0.77; p = 0.010), ARF (6.6% vs 16.0%; OR, 0.37; 95% CI, 0.22-0.64; p<0.001) and 30-day mortality (20.3% vs 22.8%; OR 0.86; 95% CI, 0.59-1.26 p = 0.436); even though, for the latter no statistical significance was reached. Steroid use was also associated with increased length of hospital stay both in crude and IPTW analyses. Subgroup analysis revealed that patients with cardiovascular comorbidities or chronic lung diseases were more likely to be steroid responsive. No significant survival benefit was seen after steroid treatment.

CONCLUSIONS: Physicians should avoid routine methylprednisolone use in SARS-CoV-2 patients, since it does not reduce 30-day mortality. However, they must consider its use for severe patients with cardiovascular or respiratory comorbidities in order to reduce the incidence of either shock or acute respiratory failure.

PMID:35714141 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0266901

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