Pediatr Res 2018 04 10;83(4):804-812. Epub 2018 Jan 10.
Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance, Centre for Functional and Diagnostic Imaging and Research, Copenhagen University Hospital Hvidovre, Hvidovre, Denmark.
BackgroundPerinatal exposure to glucocorticoids and elevated endogenous glucocorticoid levels during childhood can have detrimental effects on the developing brain. Here, we examined the impact of glucocorticoid treatment during childhood on brain volumes.MethodsA total of 30 children and adolescents with rheumatic or nephrotic disease previously treated with glucocorticoids and 30 controls matched on age, sex, and parent education underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain. Total cortical gray and white matter, brain, intracranial volume, and total cortical thickness and surface area were derived from MRI scans.ResultsPatients had significantly smaller gray and white matter and total brain volumes relative to healthy controls. Brain volume differences disappeared when accounting for intracranial volume, as patients had relatively smaller intracranial volumes. Group differences were mainly driven by the children with rheumatic disease. Total cortical thickness and cortical surface area did not significantly differ between groups. We found no significant associations between glucocorticoid-treatment variables and volumetric measures.ConclusionObserved smaller total brain, cortical gray, and white matter volumes in children and adolescents previously treated with glucocorticoids compared with that in healthy controls may reflect both developmental and degenerative processes. Prospective longitudinal studies are warranted to clarify whether findings are related to treatment or disease.