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Perioperative Dexamethasone and the Development of Chronic Postmastectomy Pain: A Single-Center Observational Cohort Study
  1. Gildasio S. de Oliveira, MD, MSCI*,
  2. Jane M. Bialek, BS*,
  3. Alparslan Turan, MD,
  4. Robert J. McCarthy, PharmD* and
  5. Daniel I. Sessler, MD
  1. From the *Department of Anesthesiology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL; and †Department of Outcomes Research, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH
  1. Address correspondence to: Gildasio S. de Oliveira Jr, MD, MSCI, Department of Anesthesiology, Feinberg School of Medicine, 241 E Huron, F5-704, Chicago, IL 60611 (e-mail: g-jr{at}


Background and Objectives Perioperative modulation of the surgical inflammatory response has been hypothesized as a viable pharmacological preventive target for the development of chronic pain after surgery. The objective of the current investigation was to evaluate an association between intravenous dexamethasone 4 to 20 mg on the day of surgery with self-reported pain in the breast or axilla 3 months or more after mastectomy.

Methods The study was a secondary data analysis of a prospective cohort investigation. Subjects who have undergone mastectomy surgery were evaluated at least 3 months after the surgical procedure for the presence of chronic postsurgical pain using validated pain questionnaires. Binary logistic regression analysis was used to determine the odds of development of chronic postsurgical pain in subjects who did and did not receive perioperative dexamethasone.

Results Three hundred ten patients were included in the study. Fifty-two patients (17%) met the IMMPACT (Initiative on Methods, Measurement, and Pain Assessment in Clinical Trials) criteria for chronic pain in the breast and/or axillary region. Two hundred eleven (68%) of 310 subjects received perioperative dexamethasone on doses varying from 4 to 20 mg. The incidence of chronic pain in the mastectomy group who received perioperative dexamethasone was not different, 15 (15.2%) of 84 compared with 37 (17.5%) of 211 in the group who did not receive perioperative dexamethasone, difference −2% (95% confidence interval, −10 to 7; P = 0.75).

Conclusions Perioperative dexamethasone is not associated with a reduction in the incidence and/or severity of chronic postmastectomy pain. In addition, we did not detect a dose-response effect of dexamethasone on the incidence of chronic postsurgical pain.

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  • The authors declare no conflict of interest.

    Funding was received from the Department of Anesthesiology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL.

    Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal’s Web site (

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