For intra-articular, intralesional, and soft tissue injection only.


Hydrocortisone acetate, a synthetic adrenocortical steroid, is a white to practically white, odorless, crystalline powder. It is insoluble in water and slightly soluble in alcohol and chloroform. The molecular weight is 404.50. It is designated chemically as 21-(acetyloxy)-11(beta),17-dihydroxypregn-4-ene-3,20-dione. The empirical formula is C 23 H 32 O 6 and the structural formula is:


HYDROCORTONE* Acetate (Hydrocortisone Acetate) Injectable Suspension is a sterile suspension containing 50 mg per milliliter of hydrocortisone acetate in a suitable aqueous medium (pH -5.0 to 7.0). Inactive ingredients per mL: sodium chloride, 9 mg; polysorbate 80, 4 mg; sodium carboxymethylcellulose, 5 mg; and Water for Injection, q.s., 1 mL. Benzyl alcohol, 9 mg, added as preservative.

* Registered trademark of MERCK & CO., INC.


HYDROCORTONE Acetate Injectable Suspension has a slow onset but long duration of action when compared with more soluble preparations. Because of its insolubility, it is suitable for intra-articular, intralesional, and soft tissue injection where its anti-inflammatory effects are confined mainly to the area in which it has been injected, although it is capable of producing systemic hormonal effects.

Naturally occurring glucocorticoids (hydrocortisone and cortisone), which also have salt-retaining properties, are used as replacement therapy in adrenocortical deficiency states. They are also used for their potent anti-inflammatory effect in disorders of many organ systems.

Glucocorticoids cause profound and varied metabolic effects. In addition, they modify the body' immune responses to diverse stimuli.


  1. By intra-articular or soft tissue injection:
      As adjunctive therapy for short-term administration (to tide the patient over an acute episode or exacerbation) in:
      Synovitis of osteoarthritis
      Rheumatoid arthritis
      Acute and subacute bursitis
      Acute gouty arthritis
      Acute nonspecific tenosynovitis
      Post-traumatic osteoarthritis
  2. By intralesional injection:

  Localized hypertrophic, infiltrated, inflammatory lesions of: lichen planus, psoriatic plaques, granuloma annulare, and lichen simplex chronicus (neurodermatitis)

  Discoid lupus erythematosus

  Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum

  Alopecia areata

  May also be useful in cystic tumors of an aponeurosis or tendon (ganglia).


Systemic fungal infections

Hypersensitivity to any component of this product

Because rare instances of anaphylactoid reactions have occurred in patients receiving parenteral corticosteroid therapy, appropriate precautionary measures should be taken prior to administration, especially when the patient has a history of allergy to any drug.

In patients on corticosteroid therapy subjected to any unusual stress, increased dosage of rapidly acting corticosteroids before, during, and after the stressful situation is indicated.

Drug-induced secondary adrenocortical insufficiency may result from too rapid withdrawal of corticosteroids and may be minimized by gradual reduction of dosage. This type of relative insufficiency may persist for months after discontinuation of therapy; therefore, in any situation of stress occurring during that period, hormone therapy should be reinstituted. If the patient is receiving steroids already, dosage may have to be increased. Since mineralocorticoid secretion may be impaired, salt and/or a mineralocorticoid should be administered concurrently.

Corticosteroids 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. Moreover, corticosteroids may affect the nitroblue-tetrazolium test for bacterial infection and produce false negative results.

In cerebral malaria, a double-blind trial has shown that the use of corticosteroids is associated with prolongation of coma and a higher incidence of pneumonia and gastrointestinal bleeding.

Corticosteroids may activate latent amebiasis. Therefore, it is recommended that latent or active amebiasis be ruled out before initiating corticosteroid therapy in any patient who has spent time in the tropics or any patient with unexplained diarrhea.

Prolonged use of corticosteroids may produce posterior subcapsular cataracts, glaucoma with possible damage to the optic nerves, and may enhance the establishment of secondary ocular infections due to fungi or viruses.

Usage in pregnancy: Since adequate human reproduction studies have not been done with corticosteroids, use of these drugs in pregnancy or in women of childbearing potential requires that the anticipated benefits be weighed against the possible hazards to the mother and embryo or fetus. Infants born of mothers who have received substantial doses of corticosteroids during pregnancy should be carefully observed for signs of hypoadrenalism.

Corticosteroids appear in breast milk and could suppress growth, interfere with endogenous corticosteroid production, or cause other unwanted effects. Mothers taking pharmacologic doses of corticosteroids should be advised not to nurse.

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

Administration of live virus vaccines, including smallpox, is contraindicated in individuals receiving immunosuppressive doses of corticosteroids. If inactivated viral or bacterial vaccines are administered to individuals receiving immunosuppressive doses of corticosteroids, the expected serum antibody response may not be obtained.

Patients who are on drugs which suppress the immune system are more susceptible to infections than healthy individuals. Chickenpox and measles, for example, can have a more serious or even fatal course in non-immune patients on corticosteroids. In such patients who have not had these diseases, particular care should be taken to avoid exposure. The risk of developing a disseminated infection varies among individuals and can be related to the dose, route and duration of corticosteroid administration as well as to the underlying disease. If exposed to chickenpox, prophylaxis with varicella zoster immune globulin (VZIG) may be indicated. If chickenpox develops, treatment with antiviral agents may be considered. If exposed to measles, prophylaxis with immune globulin (IG) may be indicated. (See the respective package inserts for VZIG and IG for complete prescribing information.)

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.

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.

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.


This product, like many other steroid formulations, is sensitive to heat. Therefore, it should not be autoclaved when it is desirable to sterilize the exterior of the vial.

Following prolonged therapy, withdrawal of corticosteroids may result in symptoms of the corticosteroid withdrawal syndrome including fever, myalgia, arthralgia, and malaise. This may occur in patients even without evidence of adrenal insufficiency.

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

Corticosteroids should be used cautiously in patients with ocular herpes simplex for fear of corneal perforation.

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.

Aspirin should be used cautiously in conjunction with corticosteroids in hypoprothrombinemia.

Steroids should be used with caution in nonspecific ulcerative colitis, if there is a probability of impending perforation, abscess, or other pyogenic infection, also in diverticulitis, fresh intestinal anastomoses, active or latent peptic ulcer, renal insufficiency, hypertension, osteoporosis, and myasthenia gravis. Signs of peritoneal irritation following gastrointestinal perforation in patients receiving large doses of corticosteroids may be minimal or absent. Fat embolism has been reported as a possible complication of hypercortisonism.

When large doses are given, some authorities advise that antacids be administered between meals to help to prevent peptic ulcer.

Steroids may increase or decrease motility and number of spermatozoa in some patients.

Phenytoin, phenobarbital, ephedrine, and rifampin may enhance the metabolic clearance of corticosteroids resulting in decreased blood levels and lessened physiologic activity, thus requiring adjustment in corticosteroid dosage.

The prothrombin time should be checked frequently in patients who are receiving corticosteroids and coumarin anticoagulants at the same time because of reports that corticosteroids have altered the response to these anticoagulants. Studies have shown that the usual effect produced by adding corticosteroids is inhibition of response to coumarins, although there have been some conflicting reports of potentiation not substantiated by studies.

When corticosteroids are administered concomitantly with potassium-depleting diuretics, patients should be observed closely for development of hypokalemia.

Intra-articular injection of a corticosteroid may produce systemic as well as local effects.

Appropriate examination of any joint fluid present is necessary to exclude a septic process.

A marked increase in pain accompanied by local swelling, further restriction of joint motion, fever, and malaise is suggestive of septic arthritis. If this complication occurs and the diagnosis of sepsis is confirmed, appropriate antimicrobial therapy should be instituted.

Injection of a steroid into an infected site is to be avoided.

Corticosteroids should not be injected into unstable joints.

Patients should be impressed strongly with the importance of not overusing joints in which symptomatic benefit has been obtained as long as the inflammatory process remains active.

Frequent intra-articular injection may result in damage to joint tissues.

Information for Patients

Susceptible patients who are on immunosuppressant doses of corticosteroids should be warned to avoid exposure to chickenpox or measles. Patients should also be advised that if they are exposed, medical advice should be sought without delay.

Pediatric Use

Growth and development of pediatric patients on prolonged corticosteroid therapy should be carefully followed.


Fluid and electrolyte disturbances

  Sodium retention

  Fluid retention

  Congestive heart failure in susceptible patients

  Potassium loss

  Hypokalemic alkalosis



  Muscle weakness

  Steroid myopathy

  Loss of muscle mass


  Vertebral compression fractures

  Aseptic necrosis of femoral and humeral heads

  Pathologic fracture of long bones

  Tendon rupture


  Peptic ulcer with possible subsequent perforation and hemorrhage

  Perforation of the small and large bowel, particularly in patients with inflammatory bowel disease


  Abdominal distention

  Ulcerative esophagitis


  Impaired wound healing

  Thin fragile skin

  Petechiae and ecchymoses


  Increased sweating

  May suppress reactions to skin tests

  Other cutaneous reactions, such as allergic dermatitis, urticaria, angioneurotic edema



  Increased intracranial pressure with papilledema (pseudotumor cerebri) usually after treatment



  Psychic disturbances


  Menstrual irregularities

  Development of cushingoid state

  Suppression of growth in children

  Secondary adrenocortical and pituitary unresponsiveness, particularly in times of stress, as in trauma, surgery, or illness

  Decreased carbohydrate tolerance

  Manifestations of latent diabetes mellitus

  Increased requirements for insulin or oral hypoglycemic agents in diabetics



  Posterior subcapsular cataracts

  Increased intraocular pressure




  Negative nitrogen balance due to protein catabolism


  Myocardial rupture following recent myocardial infarction (see )


  Anaphylactoid or hypersensitivity reactions


  Weight gain

  Increased appetite



The following additional adverse reactions are related to injection of corticosteroids:

  Rare instances of blindness associated with intralesional therapy around the face and head

  Hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation

  Subcutaneous and cutaneous atrophy

  Sterile abscess

  Postinjection flare (following intra-articular use)

  Charcot-like arthropathy.


Reports of acute toxicity and/or death following overdosage of glucocorticoids are rare. In the event of overdosage, no specific antidote is available; treatment is supportive and symptomatic.



For intra-articular, intralesional, and soft tissue injection only


The initial dose varies from 5 to 75 mg depending on the disease being treated and the size of the area to be injected. Frequency of injection depends on symptomatic response, and usually is once every two or three weeks. Severe conditions may require injection once a week. Frequent intra-articular injection may result in damage to joint tissues. If satisfactory clinical response does not occur after a reasonable period of time, discontinue HYDROCORTONE Acetate Injectable Suspension and transfer the patient to other therapy.

Patients should be observed closely for signs that might require dosage adjustment, including changes in clinical status resulting from remissions or exacerbations of the disease, and individual drug responsiveness.

Some of the usual single doses are:

Large Joints
 (e.g., Knee)
25 mg, occasionally 37.5 mg.
Doses over 50 mg not recommended
Small Joints
 (e.g, Interphalangeal, Temporomandibular)
10 to 25 mg
25 to 37.5 mg
Tendon Sheaths
5 to 12.5 mg
25 to 50 mg, occasionally 75 mg
12.5 to 25 mg

For rapid onset of action, a soluble adrenocortical hormone preparation, such as DECADRON* Phosphate (Dexamethasone Sodium Phosphate) injection or HYDELTRASOL* (Prednisolone Sodium Phosphate) injection, may be given with HYDROCORTONE Acetate Injectable Suspension.

If desired, a local anesthetic may be used, and may be injected before HYDROCORTONE Acetate Injectable Suspension or mixed in a syringe with HYDROCORTONE Acetate Injectable Suspension and given simultaneously.

If used prior to intra-articular injection of the steroid, inject most of the anesthetic into the soft tissues of the surrounding area and instill a small amount into the joint.

If given together, mixing should be done in the injection syringe by drawing the steroid in first , then the anesthetic. In this way, the anesthetic will not be introduced inadvertently into the vial of steroid. The mixture must be used immediately and any unused portion discarded.

* Registered trademark of MERCK & CO., INC.


No. 7519--HYDROCORTONE Acetate Injectable Suspension is a white, mobile suspension, containing 50 mg hydrocortisone acetate in each mL, and is supplied as follows:

NDC 0006-7519-03 in 5 mL vials.


Sensitive to heat. Do not autoclave.

Protect from freezing.

7348729  Issued February 1997