Prenatal dexamethasone treatment in the context of at risk CAH pregnancies: Long-term behavioral and cognitive outcome.

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2018 Mar 01;91:68-74

Authors: Karlsson L, Nordenström A, Hirvikoski T, Lajic S

Dexamethasone (DEX) is used to prevent prenatal virilization in female fetuses with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). Since treatment has to be started before the genotype of the fetus is known, 7 out of 8 fetuses will be exposed to DEX without benefit. Previously, we have observed negative effects on cognition and behavior in DEX treated children. Here we evaluated neuropsychological functions, psychopathology and autistic traits in non-CAH DEX-treated adults exposed during the first trimester of fetal life (duration 6.2 ± 2.2 weeks). Cognitive functions, psychopathology and autistic traits were compared between DEX-treated subjects (n = 23) and non-exposed controls (n = 58). Cognitive outcome was also evaluated longitudinally for DEX-treated participants. We used neuropsychological tests (Wechsler Scales and the Stroop Interference Test) and questionnaires assessing executive functions (the Barkley Deficit in Executive Functioning Scale), psychopathology (the Montgomery Åsberg Depression Ratings Scale, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale) and autistic traits (Autism Quota). We did not observe any significant differences in cognition, psychopathology or autistic traits between DEX-treated individuals and population controls. A significant improvement in verbal working memory (p = 0.038) and in impulse inhibition (p = 0.011) was seen when subjects were evaluated longitudinally. In summary, first-trimester DEX-exposed adult individuals do not show any significant neuropsychological deficits nor an increase in anxiety, depression or autistic traits, compared with a control group from the general population. The results also suggest that the observed deficits in executive functioning during childhood may improve with time.

PMID: 29529521 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

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