: Spine 2001 Dec 15;26(24 Suppl):S39-46
The role of steroids in acute spinal cord injury: an evidence-based analysis.

Hurlbert RJ.

Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

STUDY DESIGN: Literature review. OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this article is to review the available literature and formulate evidence-based recommendations for the use of methylprednisone in the setting of acute spinal cord injury (SCI). SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: Since the early 1990s, methylprednisolone has become widely prescribed for the treatment of acute SCI. Arguably, it has become a standard of care. METHODS: Through an electronic database search strategy and by cross-reference with published literature, appropriate clinical studies were identified. They were reviewed in chronologic order with respect to study design, outcome measures, results, and conclusions. RESULTS: Nine studies were identified that attempted to evaluate the role of steroids in nonpenetrating (blunt) spinal cord injury. Five of these were Class I clinical trials, and four were Class II studies. All of the studies failed to demonstrate improvement because of steroid administration in any of the a priori hypotheses testing. Although post hoc analyses were interesting, they failed to demonstrate consistent significant treatment effects. CONCLUSIONS: From an evidence-based approach, methylprednisolone cannot be recommended for routine use in acute nonpenetrating SCI. Prolonged administration of high-dose steroids (48 hours) may be harmful to the patient. Until more evidence is forthcoming, methylprednisolone should be considered to have investigational (unproven) status only.