Efficacy of single-dose dexamethasone as adjuvant therapy for acute pharyngitis

Julie L. Wei, Jan L. Kasperbauer, Amy L. Weaver, Andrew J. Boggust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Hypothesis: Pharyngeal inflammatory pain is reduced by a single dose of dexamethasone. Study Design: Prospective, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study. Methods: From August 1998 to July 2000, a total of 118 patients were enrolled. We compared placebo (n = 37), a 10-mg single dose of intramuscular injection of dexamethasone (n = 39), and a 10-mg single dose of oral dexamethasone (n = 42). All patients were given oral antibiotics and had bacterial throat cultures. Results: Complete telephone follow-up 12 hours after treatment was available in 111 patients, and 24-hour follow-up data were available in 116. The change in pain visual analogue scale scores (pretreatment score minus 12-h follow-up score) reported by patients who were given either intramuscular (median score, 4; mean score ± SD, 4.2 ± 2.3) or oral dexamethasone (median score, 3; mean score ± SD, 3.8 ± 2.3) was significantly greater than that of the patients who were given placebo (median score, 2; mean score ± SD, 2.1 ± 2.0) (P <.001 and P = .002, respectively). This difference in improvement was also evident when the percentage of change was compared in the three treatment arms at 12-hour and 24-hour follow-up. Patients who were given dexamethasone had the onset of pain relief a median of 4 hours earlier than those who were given oral and intramuscular placebo (P = .029). Statistically significant differences among the three treatment arms were confirmed when a bacterial pathogen was identified (n = 47) but not in a subset that did not have a pathogen identified. Conclusions: Single-dose dexamethasone appears to be a safe, effective, and inexpensive adjunctive treatment for acute pharyngitis in patients 15 years of age and older. Patients treated with intramuscular or oral dexamethasone had significant relief of pain (relative to baseline) compared with patients who were given placebo. Identification of a bacterial pathogen had a significant impact on the response to dexamethasone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-93
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002


  • Dexamethasone
  • Pain
  • Pharyngitis
  • Respiratory tract infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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