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JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2013 May;139(5):471-8. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2013.2821.

Dexamethasone for the prevention of recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy and other complications after thyroid surgery: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of L’Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy. schietroma2001@yahoo.it



Recurrent laryngeal nerve dysfunction and hypoparathyroidism are well-recognized, important complications of thyroid surgery. The duration of convalescence after noncomplicated thyroid operation may depend on several factors, of which pain and fatigue are the most important. Nausea and vomiting occur mainly on the day of operation. Glucocorticoids are well known for their analgesic, anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating and antiemetic effects. However, there is little information in the literature on the use of steroids in thyroid surgery, and the information that is available is conflicting.


To investigate whether preoperative dexamethasone could improve surgical outcome in patients undergoing thyroid surgery.


A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. A 30-day follow-up for morbidity was performed in all cases.


All patients were hospitalized in a public hospital.


From June 2008 through August 2011, 328 patients were randomized to receive either intravenous dexamethasone, 8 mg, administered 90 minutes before skin incision, or saline solution (placebo).


Intravenous dexamethasone, 8 mg.


The primary end points were temporary or permanent recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy. Transient and definitive hypoparathyroidism, pain and fatigue scores, nausea, and the number of vomiting episodes were also registered. Preoperatively and at several times during the first 24 postoperative hours, we measured C-reactive protein, interleukin 6, and interleukin 1β levels.


In the dexamethasone group, the rate of temporary recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy (4.9%) was significantly lower compared with the placebo group (8.4%) (P = .04). Also, postoperative transient biochemical hypoparathyroidism occurred more frequently in the placebo group (37.0%) than in the dexamethasone group (12.8%). Dexamethasone use significantly reduced postoperative levels of C-reactive protein (P = .01) and interleukin 6 and interleukin 1β (P = .02), fatigue (P = .01), and overall pain during the first 24 postoperative hours (P = .04), as well as the total analgesic (ketorolac tromethamine) requirement (P = .04). Dexamethasone use also reduced nausea and vomiting on the day of operation (P = .045).


Preoperative administration of dexamethasone, 8 mg, reduced postoperative temporary recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy and hypoparathyroidism rates and reduced pain, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting after thyroid surgery. However, these data require further analysis in randomized prospective studies. TRIAL REGISTRATION clinicaltrials.gov Identifier:NCT01690806.

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