Role of Steroids in Preventing Osteoradionecrosis of the Head and Neck: A Systematic Review

Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2019 May;128(5):441-446. doi: 10.1177/0003489419826595. Epub 2019 Jan 28.


Objective: The aim of this study was to summarize the effectiveness of steroids in the prevention of osteoradionecrosis of the head and neck.

Data sources: PubMED, MEDLINE, Embase, Google Scholar, and Cochrane trial registries.

Methods: A systematic review of these data sources was performed through September 2018 using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. Included were English-language studies evaluating patients of all age groups diagnosed with head and neck cancer who underwent radiation therapy while receiving peritreatment steroids compared with those who did not receive steroids.

Results: Two retrospective cohort studies were identified for qualitative review. On the basis of analysis of 25 328 participants (36-82 years of age) with head and neck cancer who underwent radiation therapy, the use of peritreatment steroids was associated with a significantly lower risk for osteoradionecrosis in both studies, with a hazard ratio of 0.74 (95% confidence interval, 0.59-0.94; P = .012) and a relative risk of 0.04 (95% confidence interval, 0.003-0.560; P = .017). Meta-analysis was precluded by clinical and statistical heterogeneity. Overall, the studies were of limited quality with high risk for bias and poor methodology.

Conclusions: Limited retrospective data suggest that steroids are predictive of a reduced risk for osteoradionecrosis; however, no definitive conclusions can be made given the poor quality of the available literature. Well-designed, comparison-controlled trials are needed to clarify the promising role of steroids in the prevention of osteoradionecrosis of the head and neck.

Keywords: head and neck cancer; human; osteoradionecrosis; radiotherapy; steroid.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Osteoradionecrosis / etiology
  • Osteoradionecrosis / prevention & control*


  • Glucocorticoids