Cardiac surgery, especially if it involves cardiopulmonary bypass, is associated with a severe systemic inflammatory
response. It is characterized by complement activation and initiation of coagulation, fibrinolysis and kallikrein
cascades. Consecutive activation of immunoregulatory cells results in an extensive release of pro- and anti-inflammatory
cytokines. This inflammatory storm is related to organ dysfunction or failure and correlates with postoperative morbidity.
In order to attenuate this deleterious inflammatory response in the perioperative period alternative surgical techniques,
novel extracorporeal circulation devices and immunomodulatory pharmacological strategies are in focus of contemporary
Since decades corticosteroids have been used and studied in patients undergoing cardiac surgery. Although it could be
shown that glucocorticoids seem to change the pro-inflammatory cytokine profile in a favourable manner, it still remains
controversial if this effect translates into a better clinical outcome. Several clinical trials have proclaimed an association
between this inflammatory response and the incidence of major complications i.e, myocardial infarction and pulmonary
complications, but until now they have failed to show conclusive results.
This article describes the different types and recommended dose schemes of corticosteroids in the perioperative period of
cardiac surgery along with the discussion of few patents. It will comment on potential side effects and review the effect on
the postoperative outcome.