SOLU-CORTEF (Hydrocortisone sodium succinate for injection USP) Warnings And Precautions

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SOLU-CORTEF may be administered by intravenous injection or infusion or by intramuscular injection. The preferred method for initial emergency use is intravenous injection. Following the initial emergency period, consideration should be given to employing a longer-acting injectable preparation or an oral preparation.

Intramuscular injections of corticosteroids should be given deep into large muscle masses to avoid local tissue atrophy.

The lowest possible dose of corticosteroid should be used to control the condition under treatment; when dosage reduction is possible, the reduction should be gradual. Since complications of corticosteroid treatment are dependent on dose size and duration of treatment, a risk/benefit decision must be made with each patient as to whether daily or intermittent therapy should be used.

Advise patients to inform subsequent physicians of the prior use of corticosteroids.

The existence of diabetes, osteoporosis, renal insufficiency, chronic psychosis, hypertension, myasthenia gravis or predisposition to thrombophlebitis requires that SOLU-CORTEF be administered with caution.

Carcinogenesis and Mutagenesis

Kaposi's sarcoma has been reported to occur in patients receiving corticosteroid therapy. Discontinuation of corticosteroids may result in clinical remission.

Animal studies found corticosteroids to have possible mutagenic potential (see TOXICOLOGY, Mutagenesis).


Average and large doses of hydrocortisone can cause elevation of blood pressure, salt and water retention, and increased excretion of potassium. These effects are less likely to occur with synthetic derivatives except when used in large doses. Dietary salt restriction to below 500 mg per day and potassium supplementation may be necessary. All corticosteroids increase calcium excretion.

As sodium retention with resultant edema and potassium loss may occur in patients receiving corticosteroids, corticosteroids should be used with caution, and only if strictly necessary, in patients with congestive heart failure.

Adverse effects of glucocorticoids on the cardiovascular system, such as dyslipidemia and hypertension, may predispose treated patients with existing cardiovascular risk factors to additional cardiovascular effects, if high doses and prolonged courses are used. Accordingly, corticosteroids should be employed judiciously in such patients and attention should be paid to risk modification and additional cardiac monitoring if needed. Low-dose therapy may reduce the incidence of complications in corticosteroid therapy.

Literature reports suggest an apparent association between use of corticosteroids and left ventricular free wall rupture after a recent myocardial infarction; therefore, therapy with corticosteroids should be used with great caution in these patients.

Thrombosis, including venous thromboembolism has been reported to occur with corticosteroids. As a result corticosteroids should be used with caution in patients who have or may be predisposed to thromboembolic disorders.

Endocrine and Metabolism

Pharmacologic doses of corticosteroids administered for prolonged periods may result in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) suppression (secondary adrenocortical insufficiency). The degree and duration of adrenocortical insufficiency produced is variable among patients and depends on the dose, frequency, time of administration, and duration of glucocorticoid therapy. This type of relative insufficiency may persist for months after discontinuation of therapy; therefore, if stress occurs during that period, therapy with corticosteroids should be reinstituted. If the patient is currently receiving corticosteroids, dosage may have to be increased. Since mineralocorticoid secretion may be impaired, salt and/or a mineralocorticosteroid should be administered concurrently.

There is an enhanced effect of corticosteroids in patients with hypothyroidism. Metabolic clearance of corticosteroids is decreased in hypothyroid patients and increased in hyperthyroid patients. Changes in thyroid status of the patient may necessitate adjustment in dosage.

Acute adrenal insufficiency leading to a fatal outcome may occur if glucocorticoids are withdrawn abruptly. A steroid “withdrawal syndrome”, seemingly unrelated to adrenocortical insufficiency, may also occur following abrupt discontinuance of glucocorticoids. This syndrome includes symptoms such as: anorexia, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, headache, fever, joint pain, desquamation, myalgia, weight loss, and/or hypotension. These effects are thought to be due to the sudden change in glucocorticoid concentration rather than to low corticosteroid levels. Drug‑induced adrenocortical insufficiency may be minimized by gradual reduction of dosage.

Because glucocorticoids can produce or aggravate Cushing’s syndrome, glucocorticoids should be avoided in patients with Cushing’s disease.

Corticosteroids, including hydrocortisone, can increase blood glucose, worsen pre-existing diabetes, and predispose those on long-term corticosteroid therapy to diabetes mellitus.

Pheochromocytoma crisis, which can be fatal, has been reported after administration of systemic corticosteroids, including hydrocortisone sodium succinate. Corticosteroids should only be administered to patients with suspected or identified pheochromocytoma after an appropriate risk/benefit evaluation.


Corticosteroids should be used with caution in active or latent peptic ulcers, diverticulitis, fresh intestinal anastomoses, and nonspecific ulcerative colitis, when corticosteroids are used as direct or adjunctive therapy, since they may increase the risk of a perforation.

Glucocorticoid therapy may mask peritonitis or other signs or symptoms associated with gastrointestinal disorders such as perforation, obstruction or pancreatitis.
In combination with nonsteroidal anti‑inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), the risk of developing gastrointestinal ulcers is increased.


Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) should be used cautiously in conjunction with corticosteroids in hypoprothrombinemia (see DRUG INTERACTIONS).


The hepatobiliary disorders are a class effect of corticosteroids including hydrocortisone. Hepatobiliary disorders have been reported which may be reversible after discontinuation of therapy. Therefore, appropriate monitoring of hepatic function is required.

Hydrocortisone may have an increased effect in patients with liver disease since the metabolism and elimination of hydrocortisone is significantly decreased in these patients.

There is an enhanced effect of corticosteroids in patients with cirrhosis.

High doses of corticosteroids may produce acute pancreatitis.


Corticosteroids may increase susceptibility to infection, may mask some signs of infection, and new infections may appear during their use. There may be decreased resistance and inability to localize infection when corticosteroids are used. Infections with any pathogen including viral, bacterial, fungal, protozoan or helminthic infections, in any location in the body, may be associated with the use of corticosteroids alone or in combination with other immunosuppressive agents that affect cellular immunity, humoral immunity, or neutrophil function. These infections may be mild, but can be severe and at times fatal. With increasing doses of corticosteroids, the rate of occurrence of infectious complications increases.

SOLU-CORTEF should not be used for local effect by intra-articular, intrabursal, or intratendinous administration in the presence of acute local infection.

Fungal Infections
Corticosteroids may exacerbate systemic fungal infections and therefore should not be used in the presence of such infections. There have been cases reported in which concomitant use of amphotericin B and hydrocortisone was followed by cardiac enlargement and congestive heart failure (see CONTRAINDICATIONS; DRUG INTERACTIONS).

Special pathogens
Latent disease may be activated or there may be an exacerbation of intercurrent infections due to pathogens, including those caused by Amoeba, Candida, Cryptococcus, Mycobacterium, Nocardia, Pneumocystis and Toxoplasma.

It is recommended that amebiasis be ruled out before initiating corticosteroid therapy in any patient who has spent time in the tropics or in any patient with unexplained diarrhea.

Similarly, corticosteroids should be used with great care in patients with known or suspected Strongyloides (threadworm) infestation. In such patients, corticosteroid‑induced immunosuppression may lead to Strongyloides hyperinfection and dissemination with widespread larval migration often accompanied by severe enterocolitis and potentially fatal gram‑negative septicemia.

Corticosteroids should not be used in cerebral malaria. There is currently no evidence of benefit from steroids in this condition.

Viral Infections
Chickenpox and measles can have a more serious or even fatal course in non-immune children or adults on corticosteroids. In such children or adults who have not had these diseases, particular care should be taken to avoid exposure. If exposed to chickenpox, prophylaxis with varicella zoster immune globulin (VZIG) may be indicated. If exposed to measles, prophylaxis with pooled i.m. immunoglobulin (IG) may be indicated. If chickenpox develops, treatment with antiviral agents may be considered.

The role of corticosteroids in septic shock has been controversial, with early studies reporting both beneficial and detrimental effects. More recently, supplemental corticosteroids have been suggested to be beneficial in patients with established septic shock who exhibit adrenal insufficiency. However, their routine use in septic shock is not recommended. A systematic review of short-course, high‑dose corticosteroids did not support their use. However, meta‑analyses, and a review suggest that longer courses (5‑11 days) of low‑dose corticosteroids might reduce mortality, especially in patients with vasopressor‑dependent septic shock.

Recent studies do not support SOLU-CORTEF use during septic shock and suggest that increased mortality may occur in some subgroups of patients at higher risk (i.e., elevated creatinine greater than 2 mg/dL or with secondary infections).

Administration of live or live, attenuated vaccines is contraindicated in patients receiving immunosuppressive doses of corticosteroids (see CONTRAINDICATIONS). Killed or inactivated vaccines may be administered to patients receiving immunosuppressive doses of corticosteroids; however, the response to such vaccines may be diminished. Indicated immunization procedures may be undertaken in patients receiving non‑immunosuppressive doses of corticosteroids.

While on corticosteroid therapy patients should not be vaccinated against smallpox. Other immunization procedures should not be undertaken in patients who are on corticosteroids, especially in high doses, because of possible hazards of neurological complications and lack of antibody response.

The use of SOLU-CORTEF in active tuberculosis should be restricted to those cases of fulminating or disseminated tuberculosis in which the corticosteroid is used for the management of the disease in conjunction with appropriate antituberculosis regimen.
If corticosteroids are indicated in patients with latent tuberculosis or tuberculin reactivity, close observation is necessary as reactivation of the disease may occur. During prolonged corticosteroid therapy, these patients should receive chemoprophylaxis.


An acute myopathy has been observed with the use of high doses of corticosteroids, most often occurring in patients with disorders of neuromuscular transmission (e.g., myasthenia gravis), or in patients receiving concomitant therapy with neuromuscular blocking drugs (e.g., pancuronium). This acute myopathy is generalized, may involve ocular and respiratory muscles, and may result in quadriparesis. Elevations of creatine kinase may occur. Clinical improvement or recovery after stopping corticosteroids may require weeks to years.

Corticosteroids decrease bone formation and increase bone resorption both through their effect on calcium regulation (e.g., decreasing absorption and increasing excretion) and inhibition of osteoblast function. This, together with a decrease in protein matrix of the bone secondary to an increase in protein catabolism, and reduced sex hormone production, may lead to inhibition of bone growth in pediatric patients and the development of osteoporosis at any age. Corticosteroids should be used with caution in patients with osteoporosis and in patients at increased risk of osteoporosis (i.e., postmenopausal women) before initiating corticosteroid therapy. Osteoporosis is an adverse effect generally associated with long‑term use and large doses of glucocorticoids.


There have been reports of epidural lipomatosis in patients taking corticosteroids (including cases in children), typically with long-term use at high doses.

Systemic corticosteroids, including SOLU-CORTEF, are not indicated for, and therefore should not be used for the treatment of traumatic brain injury, as demonstrated by the results of a multicenter study. The study results revealed an increased mortality in the 2 weeks and 6 months after injury in patients administered methylprednisolone sodium succinate compared to placebo.

Corticosteroids should be used with caution in patients with myasthenia gravis.

Corticosteroids should be used with caution in patients with seizure disorders.


Prolonged use of corticosteroids may produce posterior subcapsular cataracts, and nuclear cataracts (particularly in children), exophthalmos, or increased ocular pressure, which may result in glaucoma with possible damage to the optic nerves, and may enhance the establishment of secondary ocular infections due to bacteria, fungi, or viruses. As intraocular pressure may become elevated in some individuals, if steroid therapy is continued for more than 6 weeks, intraocular pressure should be monitored. The use of systemic corticosteroids is not recommended in the treatment of optic neuritis and may lead to an increase in the risk of new episodes. Corticosteroids should be used cautiously in patients with ocular herpes simplex because of corneal perforation. Corticosteroids should not be used in active ocular herpes simplex except when used for short-term or emergency therapy as in acute sensitivity reactions.

Corticosteroid therapy has been associated with central serous chorioretinopathy, which may lead to retinal detachment.


Psychic derangements may appear when corticosteroids are used, ranging from euphoria, insomnia, mood swings, personality changes, and severe depression to frank psychotic manifestations. Also, existing emotional instability or psychotic tendencies may be aggravated by corticosteroids.

Potentially severe psychiatric adverse reactions may occur with systemic steroids (see ADVERSE REACTIONS). Symptoms typically emerge within a few days or weeks of starting treatment. Most reactions recover after either dose reduction or withdrawal, although specific treatment may be necessary. Psychological effects have been reported upon withdrawal of corticosteroids; the frequency is unknown. Patients/caregivers should be encouraged to seek medical attention if psychological symptoms develop in the patient, especially if depressed mood or suicidal ideation is suspected. Patients/caregivers should be alert to possible psychiatric disturbances that may occur either during or immediately after dose tapering/withdrawal of systemic steroids.


Corticosteroids should be used with caution in patients with renal insufficiency.


Allergic reactions (e.g., angioedema) may occur. Because rare instances of skin reactions and anaphylactic/anaphylactoid reactions have occurred in patients receiving corticosteroid therapy, appropriate precautionary measures should be taken prior to administration, especially when the patient has a history of allergy to any drug (see ADVERSE REACTIONS).

Sexual Function/Reproduction

Steroids may increase or decrease motility and number of spermatozoa in some patients (see TOXICOLOGY).


Injection of SOLU-CORTEF may result in dermal and/or subdermal changes forming depressions in the skin at the injection site. In order to minimize the incidence of dermal and subdermal atrophy, care must be exercised not to exceed recommended doses in injections. Injection into the deltoid muscle should be avoided because of a high incidence of subcutaneous atrophy.

Special Populations

Pregnant Women

Corticosteroids readily cross the placenta.

Corticosteroids have been shown to be teratogenic in many species when given in doses equivalent to human dose. Animal studies in which corticosteroids have been given to pregnant mice, rats, and rabbits, have yielded an increase incidence of cleft palate in the off-spring. However, corticosteroids do not appear to cause congenital anomalies when given to pregnant women.

There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. Some retrospective studies have found an increased incidence of low birth weights in infants born of mothers receiving corticosteroids. The risk of low birth weight appears to be dose related and may be minimized by administering lower corticosteroid doses. Cataracts have been observed in infants born to mothers treated with long-term corticosteroids during pregnancy.

Since there is inadequate evidence of safety in human pregnancy, SOLU-CORTEF should be used during pregnancy at the lowest possible dose, only if clearly needed and the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the embryo or fetus.

Infants born of mothers who have received substantial doses of corticosteroids during pregnancy must be carefully observed and evaluated for signs of adrenal insufficiency. There are no known effects of corticosteroids on labor and delivery.

Nursing Women

Systemically administered corticosteroids are excreted in breast milk and may suppress infant growth, interfere with endogenous corticosteroid production, or cause other untoward effects.

Because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants from corticosteroids, a careful benefit-risk assessment should be conducted and a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or discontinue the drug, taking into account the importance of the drug to the mother.


Pediatric patients may experience a decrease in their growth velocity at low systemic doses and in the absence of laboratory evidence of HPA axis suppression. Growth velocity may therefore be a more sensitive indicator of systemic corticosteroid exposure in pediatric patients than some commonly used tests of HPA axis function. In order to minimize the potential growth effects of corticosteroids, pediatric patients should be titrated to the lowest effective dose over the shortest period of time.

The growth and development of pediatric patients on prolonged corticosteroid therapy should be carefully observed with frequent measurements of blood pressure, weight, height, intraocular pressure, and clinical evaluation for the presence of infection, psychosocial disturbances, thromboembolism, peptic ulcers, cataracts, and osteoporosis.

Infants and children on prolonged corticosteroid therapy are at special risk from raised intracranial pressure.

High doses of corticosteroids may produce pancreatitis in children.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy was reported as one of the adverse effects of prophylactic or therapeutic administration of hydrocortisone to prematurely born infants and few months old babies (< 12 months), therefore appropriate diagnostic evaluation and monitoring of cardiac function and structure must be performed (preferably two-dimensional echocardiography). 


In general, dose selection for an elderly patient should be cautious, usually starting at the low end of the dosing range, reflecting the greater frequency of decreased hepatic, renal, or cardiac function, and of concomitant disease or other drug therapy.

Monitoring and Laboratory Tests

Corticosteroids may suppress reactions to skin tests.
Monitoring for signs and symptoms of drug-induced secondary adrenocortical insufficiency may be necessary for up to one year following cessation of long-term or high-dose corticosteroid therapy.