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Is a split-dose intravenous dexamethasone regimen superior to a single high dose in reducing pain and improving function after total hip arthroplasty? A randomized blinded placebo-controlled trial

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Intravenous dexamethasone has been shown to reduce immediate postoperative pain after total hip arthroplasty (THA), though the effects are short-lived. We aimed to assess whether two equivalent perioperative split doses were more effective than a single preoperative dose.


A total of 165 patients were randomly assigned into three groups: two perioperative saline injections (Group A, placebo), a single preoperative dose of 20 mg dexamethasone and a postoperative saline injection (Group B), and two perioperative doses of 10 mg dexamethasone (Group C). Patients, surgeons, and staff collecting outcome data were blinded to allocation. The primary outcome was postoperative pain level reported on a ten-point Numerical Rating Scale (NRS) at rest and during activity. The use of analgesic and antiemetic rescue, incidence of postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV), CRP and interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels, range of motion (ROM), length of stay (LOS), patient satisfaction, and the incidence of surgical site infection (SSI) and gastrointestinal bleeding (GIB) in the three months postoperatively, were also compared.


The pain scores at rest were significantly lower in Groups B and C than in Group A on postoperative days 1 and 2. The dynamic pain scores and CRP and IL-6 levels were significantly lower for Groups B and C compared to Group A on postoperative days 1, 2, and 3. Patients in Groups B and C had a lower incidence of PONV, reduced use of analgesic and antiemetic rescue, improved ROM, shorter LOS, and reported higher satisfaction than in Group A. Patients in Group C had significantly lower dynamic pain scores and IL-6 and CRP levels on postoperative days 2 and 3, and higher ROM and satisfaction on postoperative day 3 than in Group B. No SSI or GIB occurred in any group.


Perioperative dexamethasone provides short-term advantages in reducing pain, PONV, and inflammation, and increasing range of motion in the early postoperative period after THA. A split-dose regimen was superior to a single high dose in reducing pain and inflammation, and increasing ROM, with better patient satisfaction.

Level of evidence: I

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2020;102-B(11):1497–1504.

Correspondence should be sent to Wei Huang. E-mail:

F. Pei and W. Huang contributed equally to this work.

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