No Added Pain Relief With Ultrasound-Guided Nerve Block

Nerve block guided by ultrasound equivalent but helps push regional anesthesia

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) When undergoing a surgical procedure or recovering from an operation, patients are hoping for complete pain relief in which they feel no pain whatsoever during the procedure or in the tender hours afterward.

But new research suggests that ultrasound-guided nerve blocks, in which anesthetics are directly targeted to a specific nerve or group of nerves, may not lead to increased pain relief.

"Ask your surgeon which pain relief procedure would be most beneficial."

Dr. Stephen Choi and Dr. Richard Brull from the University of Toronto concluded in recent research that there is not currently enough evidence to determine the effects of the newer procedure versus traditional nerve localization techniques.

During the review study, researchers analyzed data from 23 studies comparing ultrasound guidance as compared to traditional nerve localization. The analysis included 1,674 patients who were randomly assigned either to ultrasound-guided versus traditional nerve block techniques.

They found there was no clear advantage in using ultrasound guidance specifically for pain relief. Of the 16 studies reviewed that evaluated the severity of pain, eight found less pain when the ultrasound guidance was utilized though the pain reductions were generally small. One study noted a difference of only one point on the standard 10-point pain scale.

When it came to the duration of the nerve block of need for strong pain medications such as opiods, there were mixed results and most other outcomes were found to be similar for both procedures.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. John Antonakakis and Dr. Brian Sites note that the dead heat is actually good news in light of the advantages of regional anesthesia for surgery as opposed to general anesthesia.

The pair wrote that the equivalence is actually a victory for the ultrasound procedure since it will help expand regional anesthesia and ultimately benefit patients.

The review study was published in the October issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia, the official journal of the International Anesthesia Research Society.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 20, 2011
Last Updated:
March 20, 2014