Ultrasound guidance has become the accepted standard of practice for peripheral regional anesthesia. Despite evidence supporting the efficacy of ultrasound-guided regional anesthesia, its impact on patient safety has been less clear.
Evidence has been consistent that ultrasound guidance reduces the incidence of vascular injury, local anesthetic systemic toxicity, pneumothorax and phrenic nerve block. Within the limited global scope of the epidemiology and etiologic complexity of perioperative (including block-related) peripheral nerve injury, there has not been consistent evidence that ultrasound guidance is associated with a reduced incidence of nerve injury. However, a recently published retrospective cohort study has demonstrated that the incidence of short-term nerve injury was decreased with ultrasound guidance compared with nerve stimulation. Ultrasound has led to development of novel blocks, approaches and refinement of existing ones, which may contribute to patient safety.
Ultrasound has revolutionized the way we approach regional anesthesia and contributed to patient safety. It is important to note that patient safety does not hinge on one single technology. Patient safety in regional anesthesia relies on a well trained practitioner to pay meticulous attention to indication, block and patient selection, anatomy, pharmacology, equipment and technique.
aDepartment of Anaesthesia and Acute Pain Medicine, St. Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria Parade, Fitzroy
bMelbourne Medical School, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
Correspondence to Michael J. Barrington, Melbourne Medical School, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia. Tel: +61 3 9288 2211; e-mail: Michael.BARRINGTON@svha.org.au