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The Baltimore Sun

Hydrocortisone therapy is of little or no benefit to preemies, Hopkins finds

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Children's Center have released a study that challenges the long-standing practice of treating premature babies with hydrocortisone, a steroid believed to fight inflammation and prevent lung disease.

Such treatment offers little or no benefit, and low cortisol levels are not even necessarily harmful, researchers say. High cortisol levels, on the other hand, appeared to increase the risk of dangerous bleeding in the brain and require that babies be monitored to ward off life-threatening complications, according to the study published in this month's issue of Pediatrics.

Premature babies and adults with a condition known as relative adrenal insufficiency have abnormally low levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The standard treatment for this condition in newborns has been hydrocortisone therapy. These findings, however, shed new light on the clinical meaning of low cortisol levels in preemies, showing that contrary to common belief, low blood concentrations of this hormone do not put extremely low-birth-weight babies (those less than 2.2 pounds) at higher risk for retinopathy of prematurity - a potentially blinding eye condition - inflammation and lung disease.

Researchers also found no difference in outcomes between babies with low cortisol levels who were treated with hydrocortisone and those given a placebo. While hydrocortisone had no adverse effects, it did nothing to prevent or reduce respiratory diseases, infections, hemorrhages or retinopathy.

Baltimore Sun staff

City's Shop for Hope aids HopeWell Cancer Support

More than 50 local merchants along the Falls Road corridor are offering discounts as well as donations to benefit HopeWell Cancer Support as part of Shop for Hope. Through Saturday, stores are giving customers a 10 percent discount and donating 10 percent of their sales during the promotional period to benefit HopeWell's programs and services for people living with cancer, their families and caretakers. For more information, go to www.hopewellcancersupport.org.

Baltimore Sun staff

Trial tests gel that boosts menopausal women's libido

Doctors in Hampton Roads, Va., have begun a clinical trial on a gel they hope can help menopausal women who have lost interest in sex. LibiGel is geared toward women with low libidos. Patients apply the gel once a day to their arm.

While a wide range of disorders can lead to loss of libido, a low level of testosterone often is to blame. Since the ovaries produce the hormone, a woman's interest in sex may drop after menopause.

Early studies showed LibiGel raised blood testosterone levels to normal levels in women who had gone through surgical menopause. Participants reported no serious side effects.

The new study will expand the number of patients and test the gel's safety in women with certain risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Patients will be randomly assigned to get the gel or a placebo.

The (Newport News, Va.) Daily Press

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