Use of Femoral Nerve Blocks to Manage Hip Fracture Pain among Older Adults in the Emergency Department: A Systematic Review

CJEM. 2016 Jul;18(4):245-52. doi: 10.1017/cem.2015.94. Epub 2015 Sep 10.


Objective: Hip fractures are a common source of acute pain amongst the frail elderly. One potential technique to adequately manage pain in this population is the femoral nerve block. The objective of this systematic review was to provide updated evidence for the use of femoral nerve blocks as a pain management technique for older hip fracture patients in the emergency department (ED). Data Sources Searches of Medline, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials were conducted between December 2010 and May 2014. The reference list of a previous systematic review was also searched. Study Selection We included randomized control trials examining the use of femoral nerve blocks in the ED among older adults (65 years of age or older) with acute hip fracture. Data Extraction Among 93 citations reviewed, seven trials were included. Four studies employed a single femoral nerve block, while three studies employed continuous (catheter-placed) femoral blocks. All but one of the studies were found to have a high risk of bias. Data Synthesis All studies reported reductions in pain intensity with femoral nerve blocks. All but one study reported decreased rescue analgesia requirements. There were no adverse effects found to be associated with the femoral block procedure; rather, two studies found a decreased risk of adverse events such as respiratory and cardiac complications.

Conclusions: Femoral nerve blocks appear to have benefits both in terms of decreasing the pain experienced by older patients, as well as limiting the amount of systemic opioids administered to this population.

Keywords: Elderly; Femoral Nerve Blocks; Hip Fracture; Pain.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Pain / etiology*
  • Acute Pain / physiopathology
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Emergency Treatment / methods
  • Female
  • Femoral Nerve*
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Hip Fractures / complications*
  • Hip Fractures / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nerve Block / methods*
  • Pain Management / methods
  • Pain Measurement
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Reference Values