European Respiratory Society


The mortality rate in severe community- or hospital-acquired pneumonia is very high, ranging 20–50%. Despite advances in antimicrobial therapy and supportive measures, this rate has not changed in recent years, suggesting that other factors are also responsible for the poor outcome. An abnormal increase in the local and systemic inflammatory response is associated with poor outcome, and this occurs despite adequate antibiotic therapy.

There is evidence that acute administration of corticosteroids decreases the inflammatory response and might decrease mortality in severe pneumonia. This has been shown in one small randomised controlled study, terminated prematurely due to 0% mortality in the intervention arm. In addition, an experimental study showed that glucocorticosteroids decrease lung inflammatory response and lung bacterial burden, confirming the results obtained through in vitro investigations.

Although these results are promising and suggest a novel role of glucocorticosteroids in pneumonia, the inherent risks and potential side-effects of these drugs require further controlled clinical trials in order to better define the target population before their general use in clinical practice. Specifically, dosage, period of administration, titration, tapering and side-effects are some of the key questions that need to be investigated.


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