The Use of Corticosteroids as Adjuvant Therapy for Painful Bone Metastases: A Large Cross-Sectional Survey of Palliative Care Providers

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Bone metastases are a common complication in patients with advanced cancer but little is known regarding current practice patterns of palliative care providers when prescribing corticosteroids as adjuvant therapy for painful bone metastases.


To identify current practice patterns among palliative care providers when prescribing corticosteroids for the treatment of painful bone metastases.


A cross-sectional, online survey of the membership of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Providers were asked to report how frequently they prescribed corticosteroids as adjuvant therapy in patients with painful bone metastases, and to specify the corticosteroid, dosage, treatment duration, and the gastroprotective strategy most frequently utilized.


Seven hundred sixty-five participants responded to the survey and 600 (78%) of respondents completed the survey. Ninety-eight percent of respondents completing the survey reported having prescribed corticosteroids as adjuvant pain therapy, and 66% ordered corticosteroids for the majority of their patients with painful bone metastases. Dexamethasone was the most widely prescribed corticosteroid. Eight milligrams divided twice daily was the most common dosage selected and once started, it was usually continued indefinitely.


Corticosteroids are commonly prescribed as adjuvant therapy in the treatment of painful bone metastases in patients with limited life expectancy. Dexamethasone is the most commonly selected corticosteroid by American palliative care providers with variation existing among providers regarding dosing schedule, treatment duration, and gastroprotective strategies. Clinical trials comparing a total daily dose of four versus eight milligrams of dexamethasone would be clinically useful to inform evidence-based practice.

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