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Steroid treatments effective for Covid-19 cases in critical care - new research

Ground-breaking new research will change the treatment of Covid-19 patients in critical care around the world.

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Analysis of seven studies, including one co-ordinated in NZ, shows the death rate fell more than 20 per cent among ICU patients. Source: 1 NEWS

Analysis of seven studies, including one co-ordinated in New Zealand, shows the death rate fell more than 20 per cent among ICU patients treated with the steroids hydrocortisone and dexamethasone.

The findings have prompted the World Health Organization to revise guidelines for steroid use. 

Interest in the benefits of administering steroids to Covid-19 patients in the ICU began escalating two months after positive results from an initial trial at Oxford University.

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Death rates fell by more than 20 per cent among intensive care patients treated with hydrocortisone and dexamethasone. Source: 1 NEWS

It was followed up by seven trials involving steroid use in 112 ICUs across eight countries.

New Zealand researchers offered oversight and expertise due to the low number of Covid-19 cases here.

"Our contribution has been on the operations side," lead researcher Dr Colin McArthur told 1 NEWS.

"We have the study database and randomisation system based here in New Zealand."

Dr McArthur says the research has highlighted that timing is critical when it comes to the administration of steroids.  

The treatment is most effective when patients need oxygen to assist breathing, but before they are sick enough to go on a ventilator.

Experts stress steroids are not a cure but a treatment to improve patients who are critically unwell.  

Hydrocortisone is administered by injection while dexamethasone is given in tablet form.