Effects of applying nerve blocks to prevent postherpetic neuralgia in patients with acute herpes zoster: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

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BACKGROUNDPostherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a common and painful complication of acute herpes zoster. In some cases, it is refractory to medical treatment. Preventing its occurrence is an important issue. We hypothesized that applying nerve blocks during the acute phase of herpes zoster could reduce PHN incidence by attenuating central sensitization and minimizing nerve damage and the anti-inflammatory effects of local anesthetics and steroids.METHODSThis systematic review and meta-analysis evaluates the efficacy of using nerve blocks to prevent PHN. We searched the MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, ClinicalTrials.gov and KoreaMed databases without language restrictions on April, 30 2014. We included all randomized controlled trials performed within 3 weeks after the onset of herpes zoster in order to compare nerve blocks vs active placebo and standard therapy.RESULTSNine trials were included in this systematic review and meta-analysis. Nerve blocks reduced the duration of herpes zoster-related pain and PHN incidence of at 3, 6, and 12 months after final intervention. Stellate ganglion block and single epidural injection did not achieve positive outcomes, but administering paravertebral blockage and continuous/repeated epidural blocks reduced PHN incidence at 3 months. None of the included trials reported clinically meaningful serious adverse events.CONCLUSIONSApplying nerve blocks during the acute phase of the herpes zoster shortens the duration of zoster-related pain, and somatic blocks (including paravertebral and repeated/continuous epidural blocks) are recommended to prevent PHN. In future studies, consensus-based PHN definitions, clinical cutoff points that define successful treatment outcomes and standardized outcome-assessment tools will be needed.

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