Real-world effectiveness of steroids in severe COVID-19: a retrospective cohort study

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Introduction: Randomised controlled trials have shown that steroids reduce the risk of dying in patients with severe Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), whilst many real-world studies have failed to replicate this result. We aim to investigate real-world effectiveness of steroids in severe COVID-19.

Methods: Clinical, demographic, and viral genome data extracted from electronic patient record (EPR) was analysed from all SARS-CoV-2 RNA positive patients admitted with severe COVID-19, defined by hypoxia at presentation, between March 13th 2020 and May 27th 2021. Steroid treatment was measured by the number of prescription-days with dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, prednisolone or methylprednisolone. The association between steroid > 3 days treatment and disease outcome was explored using multivariable cox proportional hazards models with adjustment for confounders (including age, gender, ethnicity, co-morbidities and SARS-CoV-2 variant). The outcome was in-hospital mortality.

Results: 1100 severe COVID-19 cases were identified having crude hospital mortality of 15.3%. 793/1100 (72.1%) individuals were treated with steroids and 513/1100 (46.6%) received steroid ≤ 3 days. From the multivariate model, steroid > 3 days was associated with decreased hazard of in-hospital mortality (HR: 0.47 (95% CI: 0.31–0.72)).

Conclusion: The protective effect of steroid treatment for severe COVID-19 reported in randomised clinical trials was replicated in this retrospective study of a large real-world cohort.

Original languageEnglish
Article number776
JournalBMC infectious diseases
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2022


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