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A Prospective Randomized Controlled Trial of Methylprednisolone for Postoperative Pain Management of Surgically Treated Distal Radius Fractures

      Purpose

      Perioperative glucocorticoids have been effectively used as a pain management regimen for reducing pain after hand surgery. We hypothesize that a methylprednisolone taper (MPT) course following surgery will reduce pain and opioid consumption in the early postoperative period.

      Methods

      This study was a randomized controlled trial of patients undergoing surgical fixation for distal radius fracture. Before surgery, patients were randomly assigned to receive preoperative dexamethasone only or preoperative dexamethasone followed by a 6-day oral MPT. Patient pain and opioid consumption data were collected for 7 days after surgery using a patient-reported pain journal.

      Results

      Our study consisted of 56 patients enrolled from November 2018 to March 2020. Twenty-eight patients each were assigned to the control and treatment groups. Demographic characteristics such as age, body mass index, the dominant side affected, smoking status, diabetes status, and current narcotic use were similar between the control and treatment groups. With a noticeable, significant reduction starting on postoperative day 2, patients who received an MPT course consumed substantially less opioids during the first 7 days (7.8 ± 7.2 pills compared with 15.5 ± 11.5 pills, a 50% reduction). These patients also consumed significantly fewer oral morphine equivalents than the control group (81.2 vs 41.2). A significant difference in the pain visual analog scale scores between the 2 groups was noted starting on postoperative day 2, with 48% of the treatment group reporting no pain by postoperative day 6. No adverse events, including infection or complications of wound or bone healing, were seen in either group.

      Conclusions

      There was an early improvement in pain and reduction in early opioid consumption with a 6-day MPT following surgical fixation for distal radius fracture. With no increased risk of adverse events in our sample, MPT may be a safe and effective way to reduce postoperative pain.

      Type of study/level of evidence

      Therapeutic II.

      Key words

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