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Efficacy of low dose dexamethasone in severe thrombocytopenia caused by dengue fever: a placebo controlled study
  1. S A M Kularatne1,
  2. C Walathara1,
  3. S I Mahindawansa1,
  4. S Wijesinghe1,
  5. M M K Pathirage1,
  6. P V R Kumarasiri2,
  7. A M S D M Dissanayake3
  1. 1
    Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Peradeniya University, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
  2. 2
    Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Peradeniya University, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
  3. 3
    Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine, Peradeniya University, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
  1. Correspondence to Dr S A M Kularatne, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Peradeniya University, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka; samkul{at}sltnet.lk

Abstract

Background: The use of corticosteroids in the management of thrombocytopenia in dengue fever remains untested.

Objectives: To test whether intravenous low dose dexamethasone is efficacious in increasing platelet count in acute severe thrombocytopenia in dengue infection.

Methods: We undertook a placebo controlled study at the Teaching Hospital, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka in July 2004. Patients with thrombocytopenia (platelet count <50×109/l) were allocated to the treatment and placebo groups using the sealed envelop method. The treatment group received an initial intravenous dose of 4 mg dexamethasone, followed by 2 mg doses every 8 h for 24 h, and the placebo group received normal saline. The primary outcome was the degree of mean platelet count rise.

Results: Each group comprised 100 patients and their baseline data and other variables (headaches, nausea, flush, temperature, pulse, blood pressure, haematocrit, white cell count and haemoglobin) were similar. The primary outcome—mean platelet count (×109/l)—increased steadily in both groups from day 1 to 4 and showed no significant difference between the two groups (p>0.05): day 1, 35 vs 35 (p = 0.70); day 2, 47 vs 43 (p = 0.19); day 3, 64 vs 59 (p = 0.31); day 4, 72 vs 78 (p = 0.55). Analysis of variance (ANOVA) statistics showed a significant linear association of mean platelet counts by days in either group (p<0.001). Regression analysis identified the day of the illness and patient age as the independent predictors of platelet count change.

Conclusion: At a low dose regimen, dexamethasone was not effective in achieving a higher rise of platelet count in dengue infection.

  • dengue fever
  • dexamethasone
  • platelet count
  • thrombocytopenia
  • Sri Lanka

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Footnotes

  • Authors’ contributions SAMK, PVRK designed the study protocol; CW, SIM, SW, MMKP carried out clinical assessment and data collection; AMSDMD carried out laboratory investigations; PVRK did the statistical analysis; SAMK drafted the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript. SAMK is the guarantor of the paper.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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