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Methylprednisolone intravenously 1 day after surgery has sustained analgesic and opioid-sparing effects

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In previous studies on glucocorticoids for postoperative pain, the test drug has been given perioperatively, usually before measurement of baseline pain. In order to evaluate the time course and magnitude of the analgesic effect of a glucocorticoid in well-established postoperative pain, we compared methylprednisolone with ketorolac and placebo, after assessment of baseline pain on the first postoperative day. Methods: 

This was a double-blind, single dose, randomized, parallel comparison of intravenous (i.v.) methylprednisolone 125 mg, ketorolac 30 mg as an active control, and placebo in 75 patients with moderate to severe pain 1 day after orthopaedic surgery. Outcome variables were pain intensity (0–100 VAS), pain relief (0–4 PAR) and rescue opioid consumption. Results: 

Methylprednisolone was not significantly different from ketorolac and gave significantly lower pain intensity from 1 h (0–6 h, P < 0.02), and more pain relief 2–6 h after test drugs (P < 0.05) compared with placebo. After 24 h, pain intensity was lower in both active drug groups compared with placebo (methylprednisolone, P < 0.0001; ketorolac, P < 0.007). Number needed to treat (NNT) calculated from patients having more than at least 50% of maximum obtainable total pain relief during the first 6 h (>50%maxTOTPAR6 h ) was 3.6 for methylprednisolone and 3.1 for ketorolac. Number needed to treat calculated from the percentage reporting at least 50% pain relief for at least 4 h (>50%PAR4 h) was 2.8 for both groups. Opioid consumption was significantly reduced for 72 h after methylprednisolone compared with ketorolac (P < 0.02) and placebo (P < 0.003). Conclusion: 

Methylprednisolone 125 mg i.v. 1 day after surgery gave similar early reduction of pain as i.v. ketorolac 30 mg. Less pain than placebo 24 h after methylprednisolone, and lower opioid consumption for 72 h compared with ketorolac and placebo indicate sustained analgesic effects of methylprednisolone.

Keywords: Analgesia; glucocorticoid; ketorolac; methylprednisolone; opioid-sparing effect; orthopaedic surgery; postoperative pain

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Anaesthesiology, Rikshospitalet University Hospital, Oslo, Norway

Publication date: November 1, 2004


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