Peripheral regional anaesthesia and outcome: lessons learned from the last 10 years

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Our aim was to review the recent evidence for the efficacy of peripheral regional anaesthesia.


Following a systematic literature search and selection of publications based on prospectively agreed upon criteria, we produced a narrative review of the most commonly performed peripheral regional anaesthetic blocks for surgery on the upper limb, the lower limb, and the trunk. We considered short-term and longer-term benefits and complications among the outcomes of interest.


Where good quality evidence exists, the great majority of the blocks reviewed were associated with one or any combination of reduced postoperative pain, reduced opioid consumption, or increased patient satisfaction. For selected surgical procedures, the use of blocks avoided general anaesthesia and was associated with increased efficiency of the surgical pathway. The exceptions were supraclavicular block, where there was insufficient evidence, and transversus abdominis plane block, where the evidence for efficacy was conflicting. The evidence for the impact of the blocks on longer-term outcomes was, in general, inadequate to inform clinical decision making. Permanent complications are rare.


The majority of peripheral regional anaesthetic techniques have been shown to produce benefits for patients and hospital efficiency. Further interventional trials are required to clarify such benefits for supraclavicular block and transversus abdominis plane block and to ascertain any longer-term benefits for almost all of the blocks reviewed. Permanent complications of peripheral regional anaesthetic blocks are rare but accurate estimates of their incidence are yet to be determined.

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