High-dose glucocorticoids pulse-therapy for beta-coronaviridae pneumonia : a systematic literature review and case-series of Coronavirus disease-2019

OBJECTIVES: The results of the RECOVERY trial identified dexamethasone as the first pharmacological therapy that reduces mortality in patients with COVID-19. The aim of this paper is to conduct a systematic literature review on safety and efficacy of pulse glucocorticoid therapy for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)-CoronaVirus (CoV), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)-CoV or SARS-CoV-2 infections and describe a case-series of COVID-19 patients treated with off-label pulse doses of methylprednisolone.

METHODS: We performed a systematic literature review on safety and efficacy of pulse therapy for betacoronaviridae infections as described in the protocol registered on PROSPERO (CRD42020190183). All consecutive patients admitted to Arcispedale Santa Maria Nuova di Reggio Emilia or Guastalla Hospital with COVID-19 between March 1st and April 30th, 2020 and treated with methylprednisolone 1 gram/day for at least three days were included in the case series. A retrospective review of available computed tomography (CT) scan and chest x-ray was performed independently by two radiologists blinded to clinical data, and discordances were resolved by consensus.

RESULTS: Twenty papers were included for SARS, but only two were comparative and were included in the primary endpoint analysis. Likewise, eleven papers were included for COVID-19, four of which were comparative and were considered for the primary outcome analysis. Included studies for both SARS and COVID-19 are mostly retrospective and highly heterogeneous, with lethality ranging from 0% to 100% and ICU admission rate ranging from 9% to 100%. Fourteen patients were included in our case series, 7 males and 7 females.

CONCLUSIONS: No randomised controlled trial is available yet for corticosteroids pulse-therapy defined as at least ≥500mg/day methylprednisolone in patients with emerging coronavirus pneumonia. Lethality among our cohort is high (4/14), but this finding should be interpreted with caution due to the fact that in our setting pulse-steroids were used in patients not eligible for other treatments because of comorbidities or as rescue therapy. The incidence of steroid-related adverse events seems low in our cohort. The quality of the evidence on glucocorticoid pulse-therapy in SARS, MERS and COVID-19 is poor. Randomised controlled trials are greatly needed.

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Clinical and experimental rheumatology - Vol. 39, No. 5 (2021), p. 1119-1125




Dolci, Giovanni
Cassone, Giulia
Venturelli, Francesco
Besutti, Giulia
Revelli, Matteo
Corsini, Romina
Sampaolesi, Fabio
Pavone, Paolo
Contardi, Giada
Riva, Nicoletta
Marini, Giulia
Lazzaretti, Claudia
Mezzadri, Sergio
Milic, Jovana
Massari, Marco
Costantini, Massimo
Salvarani, Carlo


Journal Article
Retrospective Studies
Systematic Review
Treatment Outcome


Date Completed 02.09.2021

Date Revised 02.09.2021

published: Print-Electronic

Citation Status MEDLINE

Copyright: From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine



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