Advances in regional anaesthesia and acute pain management: a narrative review

Anaesthesia. 2020 Jan:75 Suppl 1:e101-e110. doi: 10.1111/anae.14868.


Regional anaesthesia has undergone several exciting advances in the past few decades. Ultrasound-guided techniques of peripheral nerve blockade have become the gold standard thanks to the associated improvements in efficacy, ease of performance and safety. This has increased the accessibility and utilisation of regional anaesthesia in the anaesthesia community at large and is timely given the mounting evidence for its potential benefits on various patient-centred outcomes, including major morbidity, cancer recurrence and persistent postoperative pain. Ultrasound guidance has also paved the way for refinement of the technical performance of existing blocks concerning simplicity and safety, as well as the development of new regional anaesthesia techniques. In particular, the emergence of fascial plane blocks has further broadened the application of regional anaesthesia in the management of painful conditions of the thorax and abdomen. The preliminary results of investigations into these fascial plane blocks are promising but require further research to establish their true value and role in clinical care. One of the challenges that remains is how best to prolong regional anaesthesia to maximise its benefits while avoiding undue harm. There is ongoing research into optimising continuous catheter techniques and their management, intravenous and perineural pharmacological adjuncts, and sustained-release local anaesthetic molecules. Finally, there is a growing appreciation for the critical role that regional anaesthesia can play in an overall multimodal anaesthetic strategy. This is especially pertinent given the current focus on eliminating unnecessary peri-operative opioid administration.

Keywords: acute pain; anaesthesia; analgesia; peripheral nerve blocks; postoperative; regional; ultrasound.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acute Pain / drug therapy*
  • Anesthesia, Conduction / methods*
  • Humans
  • Pain Management / methods*