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Intravenous Regional Anesthesia: A Historical Overview and Clinical Review

Benjamin Löser, Martin Petzoldt, Anastassia Löser, Douglas R Bacon, Michael Goerig
Journal of Anesthesia History 2019, 5 (3): 99-108
31570204
Intravenous regional anesthesia (IVRA) is an established, safe and simple technique, being applicable for various surgeries on the upper and lower limbs. In 1908, IVRA was first described by the Berlin surgeon August Bier, hence the name "Bier's Block". Although his technique was effective, it was cumbersome and fell into disuse when neuroaxial and percutaneous plexus blockades gained widespread popularity in the early 20th century. In the 1960s, it became widespread, when the New Zealand anesthesiologist Charles McKinnon Holmes praised its use by means of new available local anesthetics. Today, IVRA is still popular in many countries being used in the emergency room, for outpatients and for high-risk patients with contraindications for general anesthesia. IVRA offers a favorable risk-benefit ratio, cost-effectiveness, sufficient muscle relaxation and a fast on- and offset. New upcoming methods for monitoring, specialized personnel and improved emergency equipment made IVRA even safer. Moreover, IVRA may be applied to treat complex regional pain syndromes. Prilocaine and lidocaine are considered as first-choice local anesthetics for IVRA. Also, various adjuvant drugs have been tested to augment the effect of IVRA, and to reduce post-deflation tourniquet pain. Since major adverse events are rare in IVRA, it is regarded as a very safe technique. Nevertheless, systemic neuro- and cardiotoxic side effects may be linked to an uncontrolled systemic flush-in of local anesthetics and must be avoided. This review gives a historical overview of more than 100 years of experience with IVRA and provides a current view of IVRA with relevant key facts for the daily clinical routine.

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