Regional analgesia for video-assisted thoracic surgery: a systematic review

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Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) is emerging as the standard surgical procedure for both minor and major oncological lung surgery. Thoracic epidural analgesia (TEA) and paravertebral block (PVB) are established analgesic golden standards for open surgery such as thoracotomy; however, there is no gold standard for regional analgesia for VATS. This systematic review aimed to assess different regional techniques with regard to effect on acute postoperative pain following VATS, with emphasis on VATS lobectomy. The systematic review of PubMed, The Cochrane Library and Embase databases yielded 1542 unique abstracts; 17 articles were included for qualitative assessment, of which three were studies on VATS lobectomy. The analgesic techniques included TEA, multilevel and single PVB, paravertebral catheter, intercostal catheter, interpleural infusion and long thoracic nerve block. Overall, the studies were heterogeneous with small numbers of participants. In comparative studies, TEA and especially PVB showed some effect on pain scores, but were often compared with an inferior analgesic treatment. Other techniques showed no unequivocal results. No clear gold standard for regional analgesia for VATS could be demonstrated, but a guide of factors to include in future studies on regional analgesia for VATS is presented.

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