Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

High dose steroid treatment in cerebral infarction.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1986; 292 doi: (Published 04 January 1986) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1986;292:21
  1. J W Norris,
  2. V C Hachinski


    Steroid treatment is widely used in acute cerebral infarction yet its value is controversial. High dose dexamethasone (480 mg over 12 days) was given in a double blind, randomised controlled trial to 113 consecutive eligible patients with acute cerebral infarction admitted to an acute stroke unit. Those with stroke for more than 48 hours, known embolic sources, diabetes, and infection were excluded. Death and quality of survival were recorded over 21 days. The active drug group (54 patients) matched the placebo group (59 patients) for age, initial stroke score, delay in beginning treatment, and other relevant variables. The two groups did not differ significantly in death rate or quality of survivorship. The small difference in mortality between the two groups may have represented a marginal therapeutic effect, which might reach significance in a larger sample. The widespread use of steroids in response to such a marginal therapeutic gain would expose large numbers of patients with stroke to more serious hazards of steroid treatment and convert patients who would otherwise have died into neurovegetative survivors. High dose steroid treatment was ineffective in ischaemic stroke, and the data suggest that further evaluation by a larger multicentre trial is not justified.