Impact of a single perioperative dose of dexamethasone on the incidence of surgical site infections: A case–control study

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Dexamethasone is recommended in several international guidelines to prevent postoperative nausea and vomiting, a problem especially frequent in gynecological patients. Despite the increasing use of dexamethasone for this indication there are limited data concerning potential harmful effects of corticosteroids in surgical patients, especially the potential negative impact on wound healing and surgical site infection (SSI). This case–control study was conducted to look for potentially harmful effects of a single perioperative dose of dexamethasone with respect to the occurrence of SSI in gynecological and obstetric surgery patients.

Materials and Methods:

We retrospectively analyzed 3449 patients undergoing inpatient gynecological or obstetric surgical procedures for the occurrence of deep SSI requiring surgical intervention or prolonged antibiotic treatment. These case patients were matched to control patients according to the surgeon performing the procedure, the type of surgery, biometric data, and known risk factors for SSI. Furthermore, timely linearity of dexamethasone use and SSI rate was exploratorily analyzed using several auto–regressive, integrated, moving–average models.


Forty patients with deep SSI were matched to 158 controls. The risk profile for wound infections of both groups was comparable. Forty–five percent (95% confidence interval: 29–62%) of the case patients were treated with dexamethasone and 49% (95% confidence interval: 41–57%) of the control group received the drug. An increasing use of dexamethasone over time was not followed by an increased SSI rate. There were no timely correlations between dexamethasone usage and the occurrence of SSI.


In this case–control study we could not detect any evidence for an increased risk for SSI after a single–dose of dexamethasone (4–8 mg) in gynecological patients.

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