Facilitatory effects of perineural dexmedetomidine on neuraxial and peripheral nerve block: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Br J Anaesth. 2013 Jun;110(6):915-25. doi: 10.1093/bja/aet066. Epub 2013 Apr 15.


Nerve blocks improve postoperative analgesia, but their benefits may be short-lived. This quantitative review examines whether perineural dexmedetomidine as a local anaesthetic (LA) adjuvant for neuraxial and peripheral nerve blocks can prolong the duration of analgesia compared with LA alone. All randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing the effect of dexmedetomidine as an LA adjuvant to LA alone on neuraxial and peripheral nerve blocks were reviewed. Sensory block duration, motor block duration, block onset times, analgesic consumption, time to first analgesic request, and side-effects were analysed.

Results: were combined using random-effects modelling. A total of 516 patients were analysed from nine RCTs. Five trials investigated dexmedetomidine as part of spinal anaesthesia and four as part of a brachial plexus (BP) block. Sensory block duration was prolonged by 150 min [95% confidence interval (CI): 96, 205, P<0.00001] with intrathecal dexmedetomidine. Perineural dexmedetomidine used in BP block may prolong the mean duration of sensory block by 284 min (95% CI: 1, 566, P=0.05), but this difference did not reach statistical significance. Motor block duration and time to first analgesic request were prolonged for both intrathecal and BP block. Dexmedetomidine produced reversible bradycardia in 7% of BP block patients, but no effect on the incidence of hypotension. No patients experienced respiratory depression. Dexmedetomidine is a potential LA adjuvant that can exhibit a facilitatory effect when administered intrathecally as part of spinal anaesthesia or peripherally as part of a BP block. However, there are presently insufficient safety data to support perineural dexmedetomidine use in the clinical setting.

Keywords: acute pain; regional techniques; anaesthetic techniques; regional; brachial plexus; analgesic techniques; subarachnoid; analgesics; postoperative; sympathetic nervous system; dexmedetomidine.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Anesthesia / pharmacology*
  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Anesthetics, Local / pharmacology*
  • Brachial Plexus / drug effects
  • Dexmedetomidine / adverse effects
  • Dexmedetomidine / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Block*


  • Adjuvants, Anesthesia
  • Adrenergic alpha-2 Receptor Agonists
  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Dexmedetomidine