Infectious Mononucleosis and Corticosteroids: Management Practices and Outcomes | Allergy and Clinical Immunology | JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery | JAMA Network
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Original Article
October 2005

Infectious Mononucleosis and Corticosteroids: Management Practices and Outcomes

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY.

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2005;131(10):900-904. doi:10.1001/archotol.131.10.900

Objective  Although many studies have examined the effects of systemic corticosteroid therapy (SCT) on the clinical course of infectious mononucleosis (IM), few have evaluated the influence of these studies on treatment patterns and outcomes. The purpose of this study was to review current therapeutic strategies and outcomes in uncomplicated and complicated IM.

Design  Retrospective case series.

Setting  Tertiary care center.

Patients  We identified 206 immunocompetent patients with IM diagnosed during the previous 5 years. Patient information, including age, sex, history and physical findings at presentation, pertinent laboratory data, management practices, and treatment outcomes, were analyzed.

Interventions  Systemic corticosteroid therapy was used in 44.7% of patients. Evaluation of treatment indications for SCT revealed that 8.0% of the study population qualified by traditional criteria for the use of corticosteroids; 92.0% of patients received SCT for other indications. Factors associated with the observed increase in corticosteroid use included a history of repeat visits, inpatient admission, and otolaryngology consultation.

Main Outcome Measures  Diagnosis was made on the basis of a positive heterophil antibody test (monospot test) with appropriate clinical findings (97.5% of patients) or by the presence of lymphocytosis with appropriate clinical findings (2.4% of patients).

Results  Systemic corticosteroid therapy was not positively associated with fever, decreased oral intake, tonsillar hypertrophy, or duration of symptoms. No significant differences in incidence of disease complications, rates of hospital admission, or length of hospital stay were noted between the steroid and nonsteroid treatment groups.

Conclusions  Despite consistent and uniform acceptance in the medical literature that SCT in the setting of IM should be reserved for patients with impending airway obstruction, corticosteroids continue to be used on a much broader scale at this tertiary care institution. This observation suggests that clinicians see value in SCT for treatment of IM beyond the classically accepted reasons. Moreover, despite previous reports of possible adverse consequences of SCT in IM, our review failed to demonstrate any such trend.