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Continuous Peripheral Nerve Blocks: An Update of the Published Evidence and Comparison With Novel, Alternative Analgesic Modalities.


A continuous peripheral nerve block (CPNB) consists of a percutaneously inserted catheter with its tip adjacent to a target nerve/plexus through which local anesthetic may be administered, providing a prolonged block that may be titrated to the desired effect. In the decades after its first report in 1946, a plethora of data relating to CPNB was published, much of which was examined in a 2011 Anesthesia & Analgesia article. The current update is an evidence-based review of the CPNB literature published in the interim. Novel insertion sites include the adductor canal, interpectoral, quadratus lumborum, lesser palatine, ulnar, superficial, and deep peroneal nerves. Noteworthy new indications include providing analgesia after traumatic rib/femur fracture, manipulation for adhesive capsulitis, and treating abdominal wall pain during pregnancy. The preponderance of recently published evidence suggests benefits nearly exclusively in favor of catheter insertion using ultrasound guidance compared with electrical stimulation, although little new data are available to help guide practitioners regarding the specifics of ultrasound-guided catheter insertion (eg, optimal needle-nerve orientation). After some previous suggestions that automated, repeated bolus doses could provide benefits over a basal infusion, there is a dearth of supporting data published in the past few years. An increasing number of disposable infusion pumps does now allow a similar ability to adjust basal rates, bolus volume, and lockout times compared with their electronic, programmable counterparts, and a promising area of research is communicating with and controlling pumps remotely via the Internet. Large, prospective studies now document the relatively few major complications during ambulatory CPNB, although randomized, controlled studies demonstrating an actual shortening of hospitalization duration are few. Recent evidence suggests that, compared with femoral infusion, adductor canal catheters both induce less quadriceps femoris weakness and improve mobilization/ambulation, although the relative analgesia afforded by each remains in dispute. Newly published data demonstrate that the incidence and/or severity of chronic, persistent postsurgical pain may, at times, be decreased with a short-term postoperative CPNB. Few new CPNB-related complications have been identified, although large, prospective trials provide additional data regarding the incidence of adverse events. Lastly, a number of novel, alternative analgesic modalities are under development/investigation. Four such techniques are described and contrasted with CPNB, including single-injection peripheral nerve blocks with newer adjuvants, liposome bupivacaine used in wound infiltration and peripheral nerve blocks, cryoanalgesia with cryoneurolysis, and percutaneous peripheral nerve stimulation.

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