Emergency physician-performed ultrasound-guided nerve blocks in proximal femoral fractures provide safe and effective pain relief: a prospective observational study in The Netherlands

Int J Emerg Med. 2018 Mar 2;11(1):12. doi: 10.1186/s12245-018-0173-z.


Background: The treatment of acute pain in the emergency department is not always optimal. Peripheral nerve blocks using "blind" or nerve stimulator techniques have substantial disadvantages. Ultrasound-guided regional anesthesia may provide quick, safe, and effective pain relief in patients with proximal femoral fractures with severe pain. However, no evidence exists on emergency physician-performed ultrasound-guided regional anesthesia in these patients in Dutch emergency departments. We hypothesized that emergency physicians can be effectively trained to safely perform and implement ultrasound-guided femoral nerve blocks, resulting in effective pain relief in patients with proximal femoral fractures.

Methods: In this prospective observational study, emergency physicians were trained by expert anesthesiologists to perform ultrasound-guided femoral nerve blocks during a single-day course. Femoral nerve blocks were performed on patients with proximal femoral fractures. A system of direct supervision by skilled anesthesiologists and residents was put in place.

Results: A total of 64 femoral nerve blocks were performed. After 30 min, blocks were effective in 69% of patients, and after 60 min, in 83.3%. The mean reduction in pain scores after 30 and 60 min was 3.84 and 4.77, respectively (both p < 0.001). Patients reported a mean satisfaction of 8.42 (1 to 10 scale). No adverse events occurred.

Conclusions: Ultrasound-guided femoral nerve block is an effective, safe, and easy to learn (single-day course) procedure for emergency physicians to implement and perform in the emergency department. Patient satisfaction was high.