This randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study compared the effect of perineural with intravenous dexamethasone, both administered concomitantly with interscalene brachial plexus block for shoulder surgery. Patients received 8 mg dexamethasone mixed with ropivacaine in the block injection (n = 42), 8 mg dexamethasone intravenously at the time of the block (n = 37), or intravenous saline (n = 41) at the time of the block. Perineural and intravenous dexamethasone resulted in prolonged mean (SD) duration of block to 16.9 (5.2) h and 18.2 (6.4) h, respectively, compared with 13.8 (3.8) h for saline (p = 0.001). Mean (SD) opioid consumption (morphine equivalents) during the first 24 h after postanaesthesia recovery arrival was 12.2 (9.3) mg in the perineural dexamethasone, 17.1 (15.9) mg in the intravenous dexamethasone and 24.1 (14.3) mg in the saline groups (p = 0.001). Dexamethasone via either route reduced anti-emetic use (p = 0.046). There was no effect on patient satisfaction. These results suggest that both perineural and intravenous dexamethasone are useful adjuncts to ropivacaine interscalene block, with the intravenous route preferred as this avoids the possibility of neural toxicity of dexamethasone.
© 2016 The Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland.