Pectoral Nerve (PECs) block for postoperative analgesia-a systematic review and meta-analysis with trial sequential analysis

Int J Physiol Pathophysiol Pharmacol. 2020 Feb 25;12(1):40-50. eCollection 2020.


Background and objective: Pectoral Nerve (PECs) block is a fascial plane block first described by Blanco et al. for postoperative analgesia in breast surgery. The procedure is now widely used, and several small clinical trials have been published and reported favorably on the analgesic efficacy of PECs block. In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we will summarize the current evidence on the efficacy of PECs block.

Methods: We identified and analyzed 19 randomized control trials from PubMed, Central, EMBASE, CINAHL, Web of Science citation index, US clinical trials register and Google Scholar. The primary outcome was 24-hour opioid requirement, and secondary outcomes included pain scores, postoperative nausea and vomiting and other complications.

Results: Compared to systemic analgesia, PECs block was associated with reduced 24 hours opioid requirement [mean difference (MD) = -10.66 mg], lower pain score [9-12 hours postoperatively: MD = -1.18; 24 hours postoperatively: MD = -0.79] and less frequent PONV [risk ratio (RR) = 0.37, numbers needed to treat (NNT) = 5]. While the failure rate of PECs block was not well defined, several studies reported significant intraoperative opioid requirement despite PECs block. Lastly, trial sequential analysis indicated that no more clinical trials are needed to demonstrate the opioid sparing effect of PECs block.

Conclusion: When compared to general anesthesia with systemic opioids, PECs block was associated with significantly better perioperative pain control. There are currently insufficient data on the complication and failure rate of PECs block in clinical practice.

Keywords: Truncal blocks; acute pain; pain outcome measurement; postoperative pain.