Regional Variation in Antenatal Late Preterm Steroid Use Following the ALPS Trial

Regional Variation in Antenatal Late Preterm Steroid Use Following the ALPS Trial


Importance  The publication of the Antenatal Late Preterm Steroids (ALPS) trial in February 2016 demonstrated that antenatal administration of betamethasone in the late preterm period (between 34 to 36 weeks of gestation) for individuals with a high risk of delivery decreased neonatal respiratory morbidity. National estimates have suggested the trial did change obstetric practice, but little is known if the evidence was adopted uniformly or equitably.

Objective  To assess regional variation in the use of late preterm steroids after the publication of the Antenatal Late Preterm Steroids (ALPS) Trial and to understand factors associated with a region’s pace of adoption.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This cross-sectional study used US natality data from February 2015 to October 2017 from hospital referral regions (HRRs) within the US. Inclusion criteria included live-born, nonanomalous, singleton, late preterm (34 to 36 completed weeks of gestation) neonates born to individuals without pregestational diabetes. This study was conducted from November 15, 2022, to January 13, 2023.

Main Outcome and Measures  HRRs were categorized as either a slower adopter or faster adopter of antenatal late preterm steroids based on the observed vs expected pace of antenatal steroid adoption in a 1-year period after the trial’s dissemination. Patient and regional factors hypothesized a priori to be associated with the uptake of late preterm steroids were compared between faster and slower adopters. Comparisons were made using Student t test or Wilcoxon rank-sum test, as appropriate. A multivariable logistic regression was constructed to identify factors associated with faster adopter status in the postperiod.

Results  There were 666 097 late preterm births in 282 HRRs. The mean (SD) maternal age in HRRs was 27.9 (1.2) years. The median (IQR) percentage of births by race categories in HRRs for patients identifying as American Indian or Alaskan Native was 0.5% (0.2%-1.3%); Asian or Pacific Islander, 3.0% (1.7%-5.3%); Black, 12.9% (5.1%-29.1%); and White, 78.6% (66.6%-87.0%). The median percentage of births in HRRs to patients of Hispanic ethnicity was 11.2% (6.3%-27.4%). In this study, 136 HRRs (48.2%) were classified as faster adopters and 146 (51.8%) were classified as slower adopters. Faster adopters increased their steroid use by 12.1 percentage points (from 5.9% to 18.0%) compared with a 5.5 percentage point increase (from 3.7% to 9.2%) among slower adopters (P < .001). Most examined patient and regional factors were not associated with a region’s pace of adoption, with the exception of the regional prevalence of prior preterm birth (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 2.04 [95% CI, 1.48-2.82]) and the percentage of deliveries at 34 to 35 weeks of gestation (aOR, 0.68 [95% CI, 0.47-0.99]) compared with 36 weeks.

Conclusions and Relevance  In this cross-sectional study, there was widespread geographic variation in the adoption of antenatal steroid administration for late preterm births that largely remained unexplained by population factors. These findings should prompt further investigations to barriers to timely or equitable access to new evidence-based practices and guide future dissemination strategies with the goal of more uniform adoption.