Perioperative corticosteroid administration: a systematic review and descriptive analysis

Perioper Med (Lond). 2018 Jun 8;7:10. doi: 10.1186/s13741-018-0092-9. eCollection 2018.


Background: Perioperative administration of corticosteroid is common and variable. Guidelines for perioperative corticosteroid administration before non-cardiac non-transplant surgery in patients with current or previous corticosteroid use to reduce the risk of adrenal insufficiency are lacking. Perioperative use of corticosteroid may be associated with serious adverse events, namely hyperglycemia, infection, and poor wound healing.

Objective: To determine whether perioperative administration of corticosteroids, compared to placebo or no intervention, reduces the incidence of adrenal insufficiency in adult patients undergoing non-cardiac surgery who were or are exposed to corticosteroids.

Methods: We searched MEDLINE via Ovid and PubMed, EMBASE via Ovid, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, all from 1995 to January 2017.

Selection criteria: We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs), cohort studies, case-studies, and systematic reviews involving adults undergoing non-cardiac non-transplant surgery and reporting the incidence of postoperative adrenal insufficiency.

Data collection and analysis: Two authors independently assessed studies' quality and extracted data. A descriptive and bias assessment analysis was performed.

Results: Two RCTs (total of 37 patients), five cohort studies (total of 462 patients), and four systematic reviews were included. Neither RCT showed a significant difference in the outcome. This result was like that of the five cohort studies. The quality of the evidence was low.

Conclusion: The current use of perioperative corticosteroid supplementation to prevent adrenal insufficiency is not supported by evidence. Given the significant studies' limitations, it is not possible to conclude that perioperative administration of corticosteroids, compared to placebo, reduces the incidence of adrenal insufficiency.

Publication types

  • Review