Wagner ER, Hussain ZB, Karzon AL, et al. Methylprednisolone taper is an effective addition to multimodal pain regimens after total shoulder arthroplasty: results of a randomized controlled trial: 2022 Neer Award winner. J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2024 May;33(5):985-993. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2023.12.016. Epub 2024 Feb 4. (Original study)

BACKGROUND: Perioperative corticosteroids have shown potential as nonopioid analgesic adjuncts for various orthopedic pathologies, but there is a lack of research on their use in the postoperative setting after total shoulder arthroplasty (TSA). The purpose of this study was to assess the effect of a methylprednisolone taper on a multimodal pain regimen after TSA.

METHODS: This study was a randomized controlled trial ( NCT03661645) of opioid-naive patients undergoing TSA. Patients were randomly assigned to receive intraoperative dexamethasone only (control group) or intraoperative dexamethasone followed by a 6-day oral methylprednisolone (Medrol) taper course (treatment group). All patients received the same standardized perioperative pain management protocol. Standardized pain journal entries were used to record visual analog pain scores (VAS-pain), VAS-nausea scores, and quantity of opioid tablet consumption during the first 7 postoperative days (POD). Patients were followed for at least one year postoperatively for clinical evaluation, collection of patient-reported outcomes, and observation of complications.

RESULTS: A total of 67 patients were enrolled in the study; 32 in the control group and 35 in the treatment group. The groups had similar demographics and comorbidities. The treatment group demonstrated a reduction in mean VAS pain scores over the first 7 POD. Between POD 1 and POD 7, patients in the control group consumed an average of 17.6 oxycodone tablets while those in the treatment group consumed an average of 5.5 tablets. This equated to oral morphine equivalents of 132.1 and 41.1 for the control and treatment groups, respectively. There were fewer opioid-related side effects during the first postoperative week in the treatment group. The treatment group reported improved VAS pain scores at 2-week, 6-week, and 12-week postoperatively. There were no differences in Europe Quality of Life, shoulder subjective value (SSV), at any time point between groups, although American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons questionnaire scores showed a slight improvement at 6-weeks in the treatment group. At mean follow-up, (control group: 23.4 months; treatment group:19.4 months), there was 1 infection in the control group and 1 postoperative cubital tunnel syndrome in the treatment group. No other complications were reported.

CONCLUSIONS: A methylprednisolone taper course shows promise in reducing acute pain and opioid consumption as part of a multimodal regimen following TSA. As a result of this study, we have included this 6-day methylprednisolone taper course in our multimodal regimen for all primary shoulder arthroplasties. We hope this trial serves as a foundation for future studies on the use of low-dose oral corticosteroids and other nonnarcotic modalities to control pain after shoulder surgeries.

Discipline Area Score
Physician 6 / 7
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Comments from MORE raters

Physician rater

This trial is powered for the endpoint - reduction of opioid use - and is far from able to identify whether steroids used in this way affect tendon healing or infection rates. These are very important aspects in shoulder arthroplasty.

Physician rater

Longer-term follow-up may be required to assess complications of systemic administration of corticosteroids.
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