[Analgesia and sedation to supplement incomplete regional anesthesia]

K P Wresch
Der Anaesthesist 1995, 44: S580-7
Pharmacological praemedication. In patients receiving regional anaesthetics induction of deep sedation prior to the performance of the block should be avoided because during the installation of the nerve block it is an advantage to have a cooperative patient. Adequate anxiolytic effects are achieved by oral administration of chloracepate (0.3-0.5 mg/kg body weight). Intraoperative sedation. Once regional anaesthesia is established deep sedation or even a light sleep might be appropriate to improve the patient's comfort. Short acting i.v. substances are the agents of choice. Propofol (1.5-5 mg/kg per h) and midazolam (0.03-0.09 mg/kg per h) are recommended. Both substances should be titrated as needed. Since respiratory depression or loss of airway patency may occur, close observation and pulse oxymetric monitoring are mandatory. Intraoperative analgesia. Restlessness due to pain is not an indication for sedatives and/or hypnotics. Pain can be caused not only by incomplete regional anaesthesia, but also by a tourniquet or uncomfortable body positions, for example, and it should be treated in different ways according to its cause. In the case of an incomplete block, a catheter technique makes a top-up dose for augmentation possible; additional peripheral nerve blocks can also be used to complete the analgesia. If these attempts are unsuccessful, systemic analgesics (preferable narcotics) or even anaesthetics must be given. Opioids are recommended only in mild to moderate pain or discomfort. The risk of respiratory depression should be considered. The administration of oxygen by mask and pulse oxymetric monitoring are useful. Ketamine is a common drug with a potent analgesic effect, which possesses the advantages of good support for the cardiovascular system, because of its sympathomimetic action, and minimal depression of the ventilatory drive. However, with the exception of a few specific indications, Ketamine is not a drug that is initially an integral part of planned regional anaesthetic procedures. In case of incomplete regional blocks administration of ketamine is more frequently the "ultima ratio" following a number of previous, unsuccessful attempts-primarily with sedatives and/or opioids-to achieve a condition that will permit surgical procedures; as a result, the hypnotic and respiratory depressant effects of subsequently administered drugs are enhanced and potentiated. An important consequence of this complex pharmacodynamic interaction scenario is a potential loss of the advantages that would otherwise be gained by using "subanaesthetic" ketamine doses (< 0.5 mg/kg), namely: a cooperative patient who is breathing spontaneously and has an intact laryngopharyngeal reflex response and, therefore, an uncompromised airway competence. Pulse oxymetric monitoring of the potentially endangered respiratory function is obligatory. The individual transition to general anaesthesia is not easy to determine. Therefore, it is essential that, whenever the need arises, intubation and mechanical ventilation intervention procedures be carried out immediately.

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