Effect of intravenous hydrocortisone on nocturnal airflow limitation in childhood asthma.
ABSTRACT Low endogenous cortisol levels appear to contribute to the pathophysiology of nocturnal asthma. Lower cortisol levels are associated with lower forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) levels in children with asthma. The aim of the present study was to identify whether substitution of low serum cortisol with intravenous hydrocortisone decreases 24-h FEV1 variation and/or indirect measures of airway inflammation. Hydrocortisone was given over 24 h in a double-blind randomised crossover design to 26 subjects. FEV1 was measured every 4 h during 24 h; blood eosinophils and airway responsiveness to methacholine and adenosine 5'-monophosphate (AMP) were measured at 04:00 h and 16:00 h. Cortisol levels increased during the night and morning hours. FEV1 values were higher at all time points in children with nocturnal asthma (n=10; 24-h FEV1 variation > or = 15%) which was significant at 08:00 h, unlike in the non-nocturnal asthma (NA-) group (n=16). Numbers of eosinophils (10(9) x L(-1)) at 04:00 h decreased in the asthma group (median 0.61 (range 0.05-1.42) versus 0.52 (0.05-1.79)). Provocative dose causing a 20% fall in FEV1 (PD20) methacholine did not change, whereas PD20 AMP improved only at 16:00 h in the NA- group (72.0 (0.13-144.0) versus 144.0 (2.25-144.0) mg x mL(-1)). These results show that substitution of lower endogenous 24-h values of cortisol contribute to higher forced expiratory volume in one second values and a decrease of blood eosinophils as an inflammatory marker in more severe airway obstruction.