Regional anesthesia for trauma patients dalia fahmy md
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Regional Anesthesia for Trauma Patients Dalia Fahmy , MD. Faculty of Medicine Ain Shams University. Trauma in the world. Trauma is a major cause of mortality in the world. 3rd mortality and 1st for 1-40 YO. Pain is the most common symptom in ER .

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Regional Anesthesia for Trauma Patients Dalia Fahmy , MD

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Regional Anesthesia for Trauma PatientsDalia Fahmy, MD

Faculty of Medicine

Ain Shams University

Trauma in the world

  • Trauma is a major cause of mortality in the world.

  • 3rd mortality and 1st for 1-40 YO.

  • Pain is the most common symptom in ER.

  • Consequences of inappropriate pain management: increase stress response, activation of neuroendocrine and immune system, increase oxygen demand and chronic pain.

  • Prevalence of chronic pain related to injury in trauma patients

    • Up to 80% after 4 months*

    • Up to 62% after 1 year**

* Trevino CM J trauma 2012

** Rivara FP Arch Surg 2008

RA: The evidence

RA: The evidence

  • Regional anesthesia and analgesia techniques are increasingly recognized as valuable interventions outside of the traditional perioperative management in acute trauma patients.

  • Clearly, RA can safely decrease suffering and improve outcomes in these patients when applied judiciously.

Advantages of regional anesthesia/analgesia for trauma patients

  • Allow continued assessment of mental status.

  • Increased vascular flow.

  • Avoidance of airway instrumentation and decreased risk of aspiration.

  • Improved postoperative mental status.

  • Decreased blood loss.

Advantages of regional anesthesia/analgesia for trauma patients

  • Lower incidence of DVT.

  • Improved perioperative pain control with decreased stress response and minimal systemic effects.

  • Improved cardiac and pulmonary function.

  • Earlier mobilization.

  • Shorter ICU and hospital stay.

  • Part of rehabilitation concept.

RA: The evidence

  • Regional Analgesia in the Early

    Phase of Trauma

  • One of the advantages of early utilization of regional anesthesia is to reduce intravenous opioid requirements, thus reducing the incidence of dose-related opioid side effects including respiratory depression, increased sedation, confusion, pruritus, and nausea.

  • Infiltration or single nerve block procedures could be used early by emergency medicine physicians in the preoperative phase, while more advanced techniques such as plexus block procedures or regional catheter placements are more commonly performed by anesthesiologists for surgery or postoperative pain control.

RA: The evidence





RA >


All papers


  • Richman J et al AnesthAnalg 2006

RA: The evidence

  • Additional benefits demonstrated in patients receiving peripheral nerve blocks in the pre-hospital setting include lower pain and anxiety scores, lower heart rate (Schiferer et al,2007),safer transport and a decreased need for their medical supervision.

  • In addition to the short-term benefits of acute pain control, early treatment of injuries to the extremities has potential long-term benefits including reduction in the incidence and severity of chronic pain sequelaesuch as causalgiaand posttraumatic stress disorder.

RA: Choices and techniques in trauma patients

Neuroaxial block

  • Most commonly used RA technique in lower limb surgery.

  • Recent studies suggests using these techniques to control pain in critically ill and elderypatients with multiple morbidities.

  • Perioperative continuous epidural analgesia significantly reduced severe adverse cardiac events in eldery patients with hip fractures compared to standard IM analgesia (Malot et al,2003)

Peripheral nerve blocks

  • Advantages

  • Provide excellent pain relief and good anesthesia at surgical level.

  • Avoid side effects of general anesthesia.

  • Avoid side effects of neuroaxial anesthesia.

  • Easy to perform.

  • Could be used in the early phase of trauma in the pre-hospital setting or the ER.

Peripheral nerve blocks

  • Rapid [quicker relief than IV morphine at 5-10mg/h in fracture femur (Feltcher et al,2008)]and effective analgesia without the side effects of systemic analgesics.

  • Femoral nerve block could be used to optimize patient positioning for performance of a neuroaxial block (Sia et al,2009).

PNB: Lower extremities

  • Peripheral blockade of nerves from the lumbar plexus and the sciatic nerve.

  • Proximal femur is innervated from femoral nerve, sciatic nerve and obturator nerve.

  • Midshaft and distal femur are innervated from femoral nerve and sciatic nerve.

PNB: Lower extremities

  • Tibia and fibula are predominantly innervated by sciatic nerve and possibly femoral nerve in proximal fractures such as tibial plateau.

  • Both femoral and sciatic nerves could be visualized by ultrasound thus avoiding unpleasant nerve stimulation which may cause significant discomfort in a patient with fracture.

PNB: Upper extremities

  • Humerus received innervation from the brachial plexus that could be blocked at several places: supraclavicular, infraclavicularand in the interscalene groove.

  • For the clavicle fracture nerve blocks of C5/C6 are utilized for distal fractures and C4 for more medial fractures.

PNB: Upper extremities

  • Brachial plexus block: lacerations repair, closed reductions or arm nerve surgeries.

  • Ultrasound and nerve stimulation techniques are both used successfully minimizing the risk of nerve injury, intravascular injection, pneumothorax and inadequate block.

Continuous block

  • Prolonged analgesia

  • Fewer side effects

  • Greater patient satisfaction

  • Faster functional recovery after surgery

Thoracic trauma and rib fractures

Advantages of RA

  • Improve respiratory function, allow deep breathesand doubles the vital capacity.

  • Allow upright or sitting position.

  • Improve coughing efficacy, decrease risk of atelectasis, hypoxemia and related morbidity and mortality.

  • Decrease rates of nosocomial pneumonia and a shorter duration of mechanical ventillation

Algorithm for managing analgesia in patients with multiple rib fractures.

Thoracic trauma and rib fractures

Efficient Reg. analgesia:

Survival from 64% to 98% for 8+

Benjamin et al surgery 2005

RA: disadvantages and limitations in trauma patients

RA: disadvantages and limitations in trauma patients

  • Compartmental syndrome

  • Compartment syndrome has been defined as a condition in which increased pressure within a closed compartment is compromising the circulation and function of the tissues within that space.

RA: disadvantages and limitations in trauma patients

  • Most Common Causes of Acute Compartment Syndrome

Tibialdiaphyseal fracture

Soft tissue injury

Distal radius fracture

Crush syndrome

Diaphyseal fracture of the radius

The 6 P's: Signs and Symptoms of Acute Compartment Syndrome

Pain out of proportion to injury


Pain with forced dorsiflexion

Palpation (tense)



  • Disadvantages of RA are that complete analgesia could mask pain and parathesia, main symptoms of compartemantalsyndrome or nerve injury.

RA: disadvantages and limitations in trauma patients

  • Coagulopathy and anticoagulation

  • When performing RA in trauma patients, practitioner must be aware of increased chance for coagulation abnormalities .

  • Recommendationsfor performing RA should be done according to latest American society of regional anesthesia and pain medicine guidelines

ASRA guidelines for RA with anticoagulants

Horlocker et al,2012

RA: disadvantages and limitations in trauma patients

  • Technical difficulties.

  • Failed block.

  • Nerve injury.

  • Vascular injury.

  • Pneumothorax.

  • Local anesthetic toxicity.

  • Cardiovascular instability related to sympathetic block: bradycardia and hypotension especially in hypovolemic patient.

  • Not suitable for multiple body lesions.


  • RA for trauma patients, WHY?

  • Patients with traumatic injuries and benefit from RA, WHO?

  • Managing trauma patients with RA, HOW?

  • Limitations and side effects of RA in a traumatized patient, WHAT?

Anesthesia for Poly-TraumaPatientsDalia Fahmy, MD

Faculty of Medicine

Ain Shams University

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