Association between preoperative glucocorticoids and long-term survival and cancer recurrence after colectomy: follow-up analysis of a previous randomized controlled trial

Br J Anaesth. 2014 Jul;113 Suppl 1:i68-73. doi: 10.1093/bja/aet577. Epub 2014 Feb 27.


Background: The effect of anaesthetic drugs on long-term oncological outcomes after cancer surgery is an area of current interest. Dexamethasone is widely used in anaesthetic practice; however, its effect on long-term survival and cancer outcomes is not known. This study presents the results of a 5-yr follow-up of patients receiving dexamethasone before elective colectomy as part of a previous randomized clinical trial.

Methods: Sixty patients who underwent elective open colonic resection for any indication between June 2006 and March 2008 were randomized to receive either 8 mg i.v. dexamethasone or placebo before surgery. A 5-yr follow-up analysis was conducted to evaluate overall survival, disease-free survival and recurrence specifically for patients undergoing resection for Stage I-III colon cancer. Kaplan-Meier analysis was performed and log-rank test was used to evaluate difference in survival between groups.

Results: Forty-three of the 60 subjects had Stage I-III colon cancer and were included in the follow-up analysis. Twenty received preoperative dexamethasone and 23 received placebo. There were no significant differences between groups in baseline or disease characteristics. No differences were found between groups for overall or disease-free survival. In the dexamethasone group, there was a significantly higher rate of distant recurrence (6 compared with 1, P=0.04).

Conclusions: Preoperative dexamethasone was associated with a higher rate of distant recurrence in patients undergoing colectomy for colon cancer. Given the small sample size, this finding should be interpreted with caution, but warrants further investigation in a prospective study.

Keywords: colectomy; colonic neoplasms; dexamethasone; neoplasm metastasis; recurrence.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colectomy* / adverse effects
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Dexamethasone / adverse effects*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Preanesthetic Medication / methods


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Dexamethasone