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JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Impact of perioperative dexamethasone on postoperative analgesia and side-effects: systematic review and meta-analysis

N H Waldron, C A Jones, T J Gan, T K Allen, A S Habib
British Journal of Anaesthesia 2013, 110 (2): 191-200
23220857

BACKGROUND: The analgesic efficacy and adverse effects of a single perioperative dose of dexamethasone are unclear. We performed a systematic review to evaluate the impact of a single i.v. dose of dexamethasone on postoperative pain and explore adverse events associated with this treatment.

METHODS: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and the Cochrane Register were searched for randomized, controlled studies that compared dexamethasone vs placebo or an antiemetic in adult patients undergoing general anaesthesia and reported pain outcomes.

RESULTS: Forty-five studies involving 5796 patients receiving dexamethasone 1.25-20 mg were included. Patients receiving dexamethasone had lower pain scores at 2 h {mean difference (MD) -0.49 [95% confidence interval (CI): -0.83, -0.15]} and 24 h [MD -0.48 (95% CI: -0.62, -0.35)] after surgery. Dexamethasone-treated patients used less opioids at 2 h [MD -0.87 mg morphine equivalents (95% CI: -1.40 to -0.33)] and 24 h [MD -2.33 mg morphine equivalents (95% CI: -4.39, -0.26)], required less rescue analgesia for intolerable pain [relative risk 0.80 (95% CI: 0.69, 0.93)], had longer time to first dose of analgesic [MD 12.06 min (95% CI: 0.80, 23.32)], and shorter stays in the post-anaesthesia care unit [MD -5.32 min (95% CI: -10.49 to -0.15)]. There was no dose-response with regard to the opioid-sparing effect. There was no increase in infection or delayed wound healing with dexamethasone, but blood glucose levels were higher at 24 h [MD 0.39 mmol litre(-1) (95% CI: 0.04, 0.74)].

CONCLUSIONS: A single i.v. perioperative dose of dexamethasone had small but statistically significant analgesic benefits.

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