Background. In a post hoc analysis of the ENIGMA-II trial, we sought to determine whether intraoperative dexamethasone was associated with adverse safety outcomes.

Methods. Inverse probability weighting with estimated propensity scores was used to determine the association of dexamethasone administration with postoperative infection, quality of recovery, and adverse safety outcomes for 5499 of the 7112 non-cardiac surgery subjects enrolled in ENIGMA-II.

Results. Dexamethasone was administered to 2178 (40%) of the 5499 subjects included in this analysis and was not associated with wound infection [189 (8.7%) vs 275 (8.3%); propensity score-adjusted relative risk (RR) 1.10; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.89–1.34; P=0.38], severe postoperative nausea and vomiting on day 1 [242 (7.3%) vs 189 (8.7%); propensity score-adjusted RR 1.06; 95% CI 0.86–1.30; P=0.59], quality of recovery score [median 14, interquartile range (IQR) 12–15, vs median 14, IQR 12–16, P=0.10), length of stay in the postanaesthesia care unit [propensity score-adjusted median (IQR) 2.0 (1.3, 2.9) vs 1.9 (1.3, 3.1), P=0.60], or the primary outcome of the main trial. Dexamethasone administration was associated with a decrease in fever on days 1–3 [182 (8.4%) vs 488 (14.7%); RR 0.61; 95% CI 0.5–0.74; P<0.001] and shorter lengths of stay in hospital [propensity score-adjusted median (IQR) 5.0 (2.9, 8.2) vs 5.3 (3.1, 9.1), P<0.001]. Neither diabetes mellitus nor surgical wound contamination status altered these outcomes.

Conclusion. Dexamethasone administration to high-risk non-cardiac surgical patients did not increase the risk of postoperative wound infection or other adverse events up to day 30, and appears to be safe in patients either with or without diabetes mellitus.

Clinical trial registration. NCT00430989.

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