Corticosteroids to prevent renal scarring in children with pyelonephritis: a systematic review and meta-analysis



Acute pyelonephritis is a common infection in children that may cause renal scarring. The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to analyse the use of corticosteroid treatment to prevent renal scarring.


We searched the PubMED, SCOPUS, Cochrane CENTRAL and Web of Science databases in June 2022 for (corticosteroid* or dexamethasone or prednisolone* or prednisone* or hydrocortisone*) AND pyelonephritis. Randomised controlled trials focusing on children were included. The intervention was corticosteroid treatment with antibiotics compared to antibiotics with or without a placebo. The main outcome was the presence of renal scars on dimercaptosuccinic acid scanning at follow-up. The evidence quality was assessed using the GRADE methodology and risk of bias 2.0 tool. We calculated the risk ratio (RR), absolute risk difference (RD) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) and the number needed to treat (NNT). We applied a fixed effects model due to low heterogeneity.


We screened 872 abstracts and included five full texts. Renal scarring at follow-up was found in 31/220 (14.1%) patients in the corticosteroid groups and 76/278 (27.3%) in the control groups (RR 0.65, CI 0.44–0.96, RD − 13.2%, NNT 8). The evidence quality was moderate. Two studies reported adverse events with no differences between the groups. The risk of bias analysis showed some concerns in four studies.


We found moderate quality evidence that adjuvant corticosteroid treatment could prevent renal scarring. Adverse events were insufficiently reported, and more research on their effectiveness and harm is therefore needed before using corticosteroids in clinical settings.