Supportive care in cancer : official journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer

Prophylactic dexamethasone effectively reduces the incidence of pain flare following spine stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT): a prospective observational study.

PMID 25752882


The purpose of this study was to determine the incidence of pain flare (PF) in patients receiving spine stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) treated with prophylactic oral dexamethasone (DEX) 1 h before and for 4 days following SBRT. Forty-seven patients were accrued on this prospective observational study. The first cohort of 24 patients was treated with 4 mg, while a second cohort of 23 patients treated with 8 mg of DEX. The Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) was used to score pain and functional interference each day during SBRT and for 10 days following. Comparisons between the 4 and 8 mg cohorts, in addition to our previously reported steroid naïve patients post SBRT (n = 41), were also performed. The total incidence of PF was 19 % (9/47). The incidence in the 4 and 8 mg cohorts was 25 % (6/24) and 13 % (3/23), respectively, and the difference was not statistically significant (p = 0.46). Comparing functional interference, the 4 mg cohort had better profile in walking ability (p < 0.005) and relationships with others (p < 0.035) compared to the 8 mg cohort. Compared to our previously reported steroid naïve cohort, prophylactic DEX significantly reduced the incidence of PF (68 vs. 19 %, p < 0.0001, respectively), patients had lower worst pain scores, and improved general activity interference outcome. We recommend prophylactic DEX for patients treated with spine SBRT. Our current practice is based on the 4 mg protocol primarily due to the improved functional interference outcomes. A randomized trial is required to finalize the optimal regimen and schedule.