International Orthopaedics

, Volume 43, Issue 8, pp 1787–1792 | Cite as

Infection safety of dexamethasone in total hip and total knee arthroplasty: a study of eighteen thousand, eight hundred and seventy two operations

  • Markku A. VuorinenEmail author
  • Riku A. Palanne
  • Tatu J. Mäkinen
  • Jarkko T. Leskinen
  • Heini Huhtala
  • Kaisa A. Huotari
Original Paper



Dexamethasone has been shown to prevent post-operative nausea and vomiting (PONV) and seems to reduce post-operative pain. Both factors, which can extend the hospital stay, delay rehabilitation, and impact patient satisfaction. Because of the immunosuppressive and glucose-rising effects of dexamethasone, there has been concern of its safety in arthroplasty surgery. The purpose of our study was to examine infection safety of dexamethasone in arthroplasty surgery with enough large study material to reliably detect a possible, even small, difference in infection incidence.


A total of 18,872 consecutive primary and revision hip and knee arthroplasties were analyzed with data gathered from clinical information databases and a surgical site infection surveillance database with prospective data collection. Also, emergency operations due to fractures were included except for hip hemiarthroplasties.


During the follow-up, 189 (1.0%) prosthetic joint infections (PJIs) occurred: 0.8% after primary arthroplasty and 1.9% after revision arthroplasty. Dexamethasone was used in 2922 (15.5%) operations. The PJI rate in the dexamethasone group was 1.1% (31/2922) and in the non-dexamethasone group 1.0% (161/15950), with no significant difference in the risk of PJI between the two groups (OR 1.052, 95% CI 0.715–1.548, P = 0.773).


In our study material, the use of a single 5–10 mg dose of dexamethasone did not increase the incidence of post-operative PJI. A low dose of dexamethasone may be safely used to prevent PONV and as part of multimodal analgesia on patients undergoing arthroplasty operation.


Prosthetic joint infection Infection Corticosteroid Risk factor PONV Postoperative nausea 



This study received a grant from the research fund of the Department of Orthopedics and Traumatology, Helsinki University Hospital (grant no. EVO 2/2017).

Compliance with ethical standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. For this type of study, formal consent is not required. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© SICOT aisbl 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Orthopedics and TraumatologyHelsinki University Hospital and University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Peijas Hospital, Department of Anaesthesiology, Intensive Care and Pain Medicine, Helsinki University HospitalUniversity of HelsinkiVantaaFinland
  3. 3.Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of TampereTampereFinland
  4. 4.Department of Infectious DiseasesHelsinki University Hospital and University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

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