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Comparative efficacy of anaesthetic methods for closed reduction of paediatric forearm fractures: a systematic review


Background Forearm fractures in children often require closed reduction in the emergency setting. The choice of anaesthesia influences the degree of pain relief, which determines the success of reduction. Main methods of anaesthesia include procedural sedation and analgesia, haematoma block, intravenous regional anaesthesia (IVRA) and regional nerve blocks. However, their comparative effectiveness is unclear. This study aims to synthesise peer-reviewed evidence and identify the most effective, in terms of pain reduction, and safest anaesthetic method.

Methods MEDLINE, Embase and the Cochrane Library were searched from inception to 15 June 2021. Randomised controlled trials comparing anaesthetic methods for the closed reduction of paediatric forearm fractures in the emergency setting were included. Two reviewers independently screened, collected data and assessed the risk of bias for the selected outcomes. The primary outcome was pain during reduction. Secondary outcomes included pain after reduction, adverse effects, satisfaction, adequacy of sedation/anaesthesia, success of reduction and resource use.

Results 1288 records were screened and 9 trials, which studied 936 patients in total, were included. Four trials compared the main methods of anaesthesia. Within the same method of anaesthesia, one compared administrative routes, one compared procedural techniques, one compared different drugs, one compared the use of adjuncts and one compared different doses of the same drug. One study found better pain outcomes with infraclavicular blocks compared with procedural sedation and analgesia. Lidocaine was superior in analgesic effect to prilocaine in IVRA in one study. One study found lower pain scores with moderate-dose than low-dose lidocaine in IVRA.

Conclusion Few randomised controlled trials compared anaesthetic methods in the closed reduction of paediatric forearm fractures. High heterogeneity precluded meta-analysis. Overall, current data are insufficient to guide the choice of anaesthetic method in emergency settings. More adequately powered trials, conducted using standardised methods, are required.

  • fractures and dislocations
  • anaesthesia
  • emergency department
  • analgesia

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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