[Background and current use of adjuvants for regional anesthesia : From research to evidence-based patient treatment].
The discovery of the local anaesthetic effect by blocking sodium ion channels was a milestone in anaesthesia but was soon limited by sometimes life-threatening toxic effects of the local anaesthetics. By developing novel local anaesthetics and also by adding so-called adjuvants, attempts have been made to limit these life-threatening events. This article focuses on the historic background and the current state of the use of these adjuvants for regional anaesthesia. Adding epinephrine, clonidine or dexmedetomidine, but only as a single dose, results in a faster onset, longer duration of action and increased intensity of neuronal blockade of regional anaesthesia. The benefits of adding sodium bicarbonate, on the other hand, are relatively minor and, therefore, clinically negligible. Although increasing evidence in the literature suggests an improvement and prolongation of the analgesic effect after axonal administration of opioids, which can also be given continuously, systemic effects are not fully ruled out due to the increased incidence of central side effects. The partial local anaesthetic effects of opioids cannot always be distinguished from opioid receptor-specific effects. Mechanistic studies postulate a functional coupling of opioid receptors in injured rather than in intact peripheral nerves. Recent studies have identified glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptors predominantly on peripheral nociceptive nerve fibers. This is consistent with numerous clinical reports of a marked prolongation of the local anaesthetic effect. In addition to the known genomic effects of steroids that occur via a change in gene expression of pain-sustaining protein structures, faster non-genomic effects are also discussed, which occur via a change in intracellular signaling pathways. In summary, new insights into mechanisms and novel results from clinical trials will help the anaesthesiologist in the decision to use adjuvants for regional anaesthesia which, however, requires to weigh the individual patient's benefits against the risks.
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