Infantile hemangiomas are the most common benign tumors of infancy. Up to 38% of hemangiomas require treatment with systemic medications because of complications. Corticosteroids have been the mainstay for treating such hemangiomas. However, prospective studies evaluating their immunosuppressive effects in infants with hemangiomas are lacking.
Sixteen patients who presented to the Birthmark and Vascular Anomalies Center at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin from November 1, 2006, through February 28, 2008, were enrolled in the study. A significant reduction in the numbers of all B- and T-lymphocyte subpopulations was observed after corticosteroid administration. CD19+ B lymphocytes and CD4+ T cells were significantly reduced by 8 weeks of corticosteroid therapy, whereas CD8+ T cells were reduced at week 16 compared with baseline. Immune function was also affected because 13 and 5 patients had protective diphtheria titers and tetanus titers, respectively, 3 months after discontinuation of corticosteroid therapy compared with baseline.
These results demonstrate that corticosteroids measurably affect both lymphocyte cell numbers and function in this patient population. Prophylaxis with the combination of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole should be considered in infants treated with corticosteroids for infantile hemangiomas. We also recommend that tetanus and diphtheria antibodies be checked in patients who receive oral corticosteroids during the immunization period and that additional immunization be administered if the titers are not protective after corticosteroid therapy.Published online May 17, 2010 (doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2010.90).