Gasbjerg KS, Hagi-Pedersen D, Lunn TH, et al. Effect of dexamethasone as an analgesic adjuvant to multimodal pain treatment after total knee arthroplasty: randomised clinical trial. BMJ. 2022 Jan 4;376:e067325. doi: 10.1136/bmj-2021-067325. (Original study)

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effects of one and two doses of intravenous dexamethasone in patients after total knee arthroplasty.

DESIGN: Randomised, blinded, placebo controlled trial with follow-up at 90 days.

SETTING: Five Danish hospitals, September 2018 to March 2020.

PARTICIPANTS: 485 adult participants undergoing total knee arthroplasty.

INTERVENTION: A computer generated randomised sequence stratified for site was used to allocate participants to one of three groups: DX1 (dexamethasone (24 mg)+placebo); DX2 (dexamethasone (24 mg)+dexamethasone (24 mg)); or placebo (placebo+placebo). The intervention was given preoperatively and after 24 hours. Participants, investigators, and outcome assessors were blinded. All participants received paracetamol, ibuprofen, and local infiltration analgesia.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome was total intravenous morphine consumption 0 to 48 hours postoperatively. Multiplicity adjusted threshold for statistical significance was P<0.017 and minimal important difference was 10 mg morphine. Secondary outcomes included postoperative pain.

RESULTS: 485 participants were randomised: 161 to DX1, 162 to DX2, and 162 to placebo. Data from 472 participants (97.3%) were included in the primary outcome analysis. The median (interquartile range) morphine consumptions at 0-48 hours were: DX1 37.9 mg (20.7 to 56.7); DX2 35.0 mg (20.6 to 52.0); and placebo 43.0 mg (28.7 to 64.0). Hodges-Lehmann median differences between groups were: -2.7 mg (98.3% confidence interval -9.3 to 3.7), P=0.30 between DX1 and DX2; 7.8 mg (0.7 to 14.7), P=0.008 between DX1 and placebo; and 10.7 mg (4.0 to 17.3), P<0.001 between DX2 and placebo. Postoperative pain was reduced at 24 hours with one dose, and at 48 hours with two doses, of dexamethasone.

CONCLUSION: Two doses of dexamethasone reduced morphine consumption during 48 hours after total knee arthroplasty and reduced postoperative pain.


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Physician rater

This article is part of a growing body of studies in peer-reviewed journals to stop the overuse of opioids. The study is useful but there are so many studies where the researchers start with the conclusion in mind to prove that opioids are bad and there are alternatives for pain management that are as effective or nearly as effective as opioids.
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