A major international trial has been launched to determine whether the delivery of corticosteroids shortly after head injury can reduce deaths and disability after accidents.

The CRASH (corticosteroid randomisation after significant head injury) trial aims to recruit 20,000 adults with recent head injury and impaired consciousness. They will be randomised to receive a 48-hour infusion of corticosteroids or placebo.

The three-year trial, which is supported by the Medical Research Council, has so far recruited 50 people and involves 63 centres in Europe.

CRASH co-ordinator Dr Ian Roberts said: 'Previous studies have been inconclusive but this trial will, for the first time, give reliable information on the effects of corticosteroid infusion on death and disability following significant head injury.'

Previous studies suggested corticosteroid treatment can reduce risk of death by about 2 per cent.