Multimodal perioperative pain-management protocols have contributed to the success of elective total joint replacement in orthopedic surgery. General or neuraxial anesthesia for arthroplasty is accompanied by complications such as pruritis, nausea, and vomiting. Dexamethasone has been demonstrated to be a safe perioperative antiemetic. This study evaluates the benefit of low-dose intravenous dexamethasone used in the perioperative period to prevent postoperative nausea and vomiting.
Two scheduled doses of 8 mg of dexamethasone 12 hours apart after total hip arthroplasty or total knee arthroplasty were given to a dexamethasone group (n = 492) and were retrospectively compared with a no-dexamethasone group (n = 364) based on the use of antiemetics in the postoperative period. Frequency of antiemetic use in both groups was compared using a zero-inflated fixed-model Poisson distribution. Additional analysis included need for opioid analgesic, administration of diphenhydramine, and postoperative infection rates at 30 and 90 days.
The dexamethasone group was found to have a significant reduction in need for the rescue antiemetic ondansetron (P = .00194). There was an associated reduction in length of stay for the treatment group (mean 1.83 days) relative to the control group (mean 2.17 days) (P < .001). There was no significant difference in postoperative infection rates at 30 or 90 days after arthroplasty.
Dexamethasone is a safe adjunct to perioperative protocol that may reduce nausea, thus improving patient satisfaction. There is an associated reduction in length of stay that may reduce cost of hospitalization.