Rationale and Design of the Steroids to Reduce Systemic Inflammation after Infant Heart Surgery (STRESS) Trial

Am Heart J. 2019 Dec 9;220:192-202

The pragmatic “trial within a registry” design may provide a mechanism for conducting low cost, high efficiency trials in a heretofore-understudied patient population.

For decades, physicians have administered corticosteroids in the perioperative period to infants undergoing heart surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) to reduce the post-operative systemic inflammatory response to CPB. Some question this practice because steroid efficacy has not been conclusively demonstrated and because some studies indicate that steroids could have harmful effects. STRESS is a randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind, multi-center trial designed to evaluate safety and efficacy of perioperative steroids in infants (age< 1 year) undergoing heart surgery with CPB. Participants (planned enrollment = 1200) are randomized 1:1 to methylprednisolone (30 mg/kg) administered into the CPB pump prime versus placebo. The trial is nested within the existing infrastructure of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons Congenital Heart Surgery Database (STS-CHSD). The primary outcome is a global rank score of mortality, major morbidities and hospital length of stay with components ranked commensurate with their clinical severity. Secondary outcomes include several measures of major post-operative morbidity, post-operative hospital length of stay and steroid-related safety outcomes including prevalence of hyperglycemia and post-operative infectious complications. STRESS will be one of the largest trials ever conducted in children with heart disease and will answer a decades old question related to safety and efficacy of perioperative steroids in infants undergoing heart surgery with CPB. The pragmatic “trial within a registry” design may provide a mechanism for conducting low cost, high efficiency trials in a heretofore-understudied patient population.