BACKGROUND - Dexamethasone, when added to local anesthetics, has been shown to prolong the duration of peripheral nerve blocks; however, there are limited studies utilizing large numbers of patients. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of adding dexamethasone to ropivacaine on duration of nerve blocks of the upper and lower extremity.
METHODS - We reviewed 1,040 patient records collected in an orthopedic outpatient surgery center that had received an upper or lower extremity peripheral nerve block with ropivacaine 0.5% with or without dexamethasone and/or epinephrine. The primary outcome was duration of analgesia in upper or lower extremity blocks containing dexamethasone as an adjunct. Secondary outcomes included postoperative patient pain scores, satisfaction, and the incidence of block related complications. Linear and ordinal logistic regression models were used to examine the independent effect of dexamethasone on outcomes.
RESULTS - Dexamethasone was observed to increase median block duration by 37% (95% confidence interval: 31-43%). The increased block duration persisted within body regions (upper and lower) and across a range of block types. Dexamethasone was also observed to reduce pain scores on the day of surgery (P = 0.001) and postoperative day 1 (P < 0.001). There was no significant difference in duration of nerve blocks when epinephrine (1:400,000) was added to 0.5% ropivacaine with or without dexamethasone.
CONCLUSION - The addition of dexamethasone to 0.5% ropivacaine prolongs the duration of peripheral nerve blocks of both the upper and lower extremity.
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