An evaluation of the benefits and harms of antenatal corticosteroid treatment for women at risk of imminent preterm birth or prior to elective Caesarean-section: Study protocol for an individual participant data meta-analysis

Elizabeth Wastnedge, Joshua Vogel, Jasper V. Been, Cynthia Bannerman-Gyamfi, Ewoud Schuit, Devender Roberts, Rebecca M. Reynolds, Sarah Stock, Co_Opt collaboration

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Background: Antenatal corticosteroid treatment (ACT) has been widely accepted as a safe, beneficial treatment which improves outcomes following preterm birth. It has been shown to reduce respiratory distress syndrome and neonatal mortality and is commonly used in threatened or planned preterm delivery, as well as prior to elective Caesarean-section at term. There are some concerns however, that in some cases, ACT is used in patients where clinical benefit has not been established, or may potentially increase harm. Many women who receive ACT do not deliver preterm and the long-term consequences of ACT treatment are unclear. This study aims to evaluate the benefits and harms of ACT using latest trial evidence to allow refinement of current practice. Methods: This study will compare ACT with placebo or non-treatment. Inclusion criteria are: Randomised Controlled Trials (RCT) comparing ACT vs. no ACT (with or without placebo) in all settings. Exclusion criteria are: non-randomised or quasi-randomised studies and studies comparing single vs. multiple courses of ACT. Main outcomes are to evaluate, for women at risk of preterm birth or undergoing planned Caesarean- section, the benefits and harms of ACT, on maternal, fetal, newborn, and long-term offspring health outcomes. The individual participant data (IPD) of identified RCTs will be collected and consecutively synthesised using meta-analysis with both a one-stage model where all IPD is analysed together and a two-stage model where treatment effect estimates are calculated for each trial individually first and thereafter pooled in a meta-analysis. Sub-group analysis will be performed to identify heterogeneous effects of ACT across predefined risk groups. Discussion: Co-opt is the Consortium for the Study of Pregnancy Treatments and aims to complete a robust evaluation of the benefits and harms of ACT. This IPD meta-analysis will contribute to this by allowing detailed interrogation of existing trial datasets. PROSPERO registration: CRD42020167312 (03/02/2020)

Original languageEnglish
Article number38
Number of pages13
JournalWellcome Open Research
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Antenatal corticosteroids
  • Preterm birth
  • Respiratory distress syndrome

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