Ultrasound in regional anaesthesia

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Abstract

Ultrasound guidance is rapidly becoming the gold standard for regional anaesthesia. There is an ever growing weight of evidence, matched with improving technology, to show that the use of ultrasound has significant benefits over conventional techniques, such as nerve stimulation and loss of resistance. The improved safety and efficacy that ultrasound brings to regional anaesthesia will help promote its use and realise the benefits that regional anaesthesia has over general anaesthesia, such as decreased morbidity and mortality, superior postoperative analgesia, cost-effectiveness, decreased postoperative complications and an improved postoperative course. In this review we consider the evidence behind the improved safety and efficacy of ultrasound-guided regional anaesthesia, before discussing its use in pain medicine, paediatrics and in the facilitation of neuraxial blockade. The Achilles' heel of ultrasound-guided regional anaesthesia is that anaesthetists are far more familiar with providing general anaesthesia, which in most cases requires skills that are achieved faster and more reliably. To this ends we go on to provide practical advice on ultrasound-guided techniques and the introduction of ultrasound into a department.

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