Combined Dexamethasone and Dexmedetomidine as Adjuncts to Popliteal and Saphenous Nerve Blocks in Patients Undergoing Surgery of the Foot or Ankle: A Randomized, Blinded, Placebo-controlled Clinical Trial

Anesthesiology. 2024 Jun 1;140(6):1165-1175. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0000000000004977.


Background: Both dexamethasone and dexmedetomidine increase the duration of analgesia of peripheral nerve blocks. The authors hypothesized that combined intravenous dexamethasone and intravenous dexmedetomidine would result in a greater duration of analgesia when compared with intravenous dexamethasone alone and placebo.

Methods: The authors randomly allocated participants undergoing surgery of the foot or ankle under general anesthesia and with a combined popliteal (sciatic) and saphenous nerve block to a combination of 12 mg dexamethasone and 1 µg/kg dexmedetomidine, 12 mg dexamethasone, or placebo (saline). The primary outcome was the duration of analgesia measured as the time from block performance until the first sensation of pain in the surgical area as reported by the participant. The authors predefined a 33% difference in the duration of analgesia as clinically relevant.

Results: A total of 120 participants from two centers were randomized and 119 analyzed for the primary outcome. The median [interquartile range] duration of analgesia was 1,572 min [1,259 to 1,715] with combined dexamethasone and dexmedetomidine, 1,400 min [1,133 to 1,750] with dexamethasone alone, and 870 min [748 to 1,138] with placebo. Compared with placebo, the duration was greater with combined dexamethasone and dexmedetomidine (difference, 564 min; 98.33% CI, 301 to 794; P < 0.001) and with dexamethasone (difference, 489 min; 98.33% CI, 265 to 706; P < 0.001). The prolongations exceeded the authors' predefined clinically relevant difference. The duration was similar when combined dexamethasone and dexmedetomidine was compared with dexamethasone alone (difference, 61 min; 98.33% CI, -222 to 331; P = 0.614).

Conclusions: Dexamethasone with or without dexmedetomidine increased the duration of analgesia in patients undergoing surgery of the foot or ankle with a popliteal (sciatic) and saphenous nerve block. Combined dexamethasone and dexmedetomidine did not increase the duration of analgesia when compared with dexamethasone.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ankle* / surgery
  • Dexamethasone* / administration & dosage
  • Dexmedetomidine* / administration & dosage
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / methods
  • Female
  • Foot* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Block* / methods
  • Pain, Postoperative / drug therapy
  • Pain, Postoperative / prevention & control
  • Sciatic Nerve / drug effects