Journal of pain and symptom management

Pre-emptive value of methylprednisolone intravenous infusion in patients with vertebral metastases. A double-blind randomized study.

PMID 24704801


The vertebral column is the most common site of bone metastases irrespective of the primary tumor. Vertebral metastases are a major cause of motor deficit of the lower extremities. The use of radiotherapy is the treatment of choice in these patients. A temporary worsening of pain shortly during the course of palliative radiotherapy is clinically a common problem. Steroid infusion has well-documented neuroprotective effects. Our study objective is to evaluate the effect of pre-emptive infusion of methylprednisolone on pain flare and motor function in patients with vertebral metastases. One hundred twenty patients with vertebral metastases received short-course external beam radiotherapy as high-voltage irradiation with a 6 MeV, via linear accelerator. In addition to the short-course radiotherapy, 60 patients received pre-emptive methylprednisolone infusion (5 mg/kg) the day just before initiation of radiotherapy (Group 1 [G1]). The other 60 patients received short-course radiotherapy without pretreatment methylprednisolone infusion, and only normal saline was infused (Group 2 [G2]). The Brief Pain Inventory, incidence of pain flare during radiotherapy, and motor functions were evaluated using the Tomita scale at the time of initial assessment, at the end of external beam radiotherapy, and after two weeks. Four patients (6.6%) in G1 experienced pain flare compared with 12 patients (20%) in G2 during the two-week short-course radiotherapy. The mean values of pain scores were significantly reduced in both groups at the end of radiotherapy; the mean value of worst, average, and current pain scores in G1 remained statistically significant in comparison to pretreatment and G2 mean values two weeks later. Significant increase was noticed in patients with normal motor and ambulatory status in G1 at two and four weeks of initial assessment. Pre-emptive methylprednisolone infusion is an effective prophylactic agent in the prevention of radiation-induced pain flare and improves functional motor status after short-term radiotherapy in patients with vertebral metastases.