Outpatient orthopedics now favor peripheral nerve blocks over general anesthesia: 3 study insights

The pain management techniques used in outpatient orthopedic extremity surgery have significantly changed in the past two decades, according to a study published in Healthcare.

The researchers reviewed anesthesia records of patients who underwent outpatient distal radius fracture repairs or outpatient arthroscopic knee meniscus procedures between 1998 and 2012, to determine what type of pain management technique was used.

Here's what you need to know:

1. Since 1998, anesthesiologists have transitioned from predominantly using general anesthesia to predominantly using peripheral nerve blocks during outpatient orthopedic procedures.

2. In 2003, peripheral nerve blocks were used in fewer than 10 percent of the cases studied; in 2012, peripheral nerve blocks were used in 70 percent of the cases studied.

3. The researchers interviewed anesthesiologists, orthopedic surgeons and a nursing administrator to identify themes associated with the adoption of peripheral nerve blocks. These themes included improved efficiency, quality, safety, technology and physician leadership and trust.

The researchers conclude that the adoption of peripheral nerve blocks in outpatient orthopedic care can provide a model for understanding the diffusion of innovations in healthcare.

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