Background: The French-Language Society of Paediatric Anaesthesiologists (ADARPEF) designed a 1-year prospective, multicenter and anonymous study to update both epidemiology and morbidity of regional anesthesia in children.
Methods: From November 2005 to October 2006, data from participating hospitals were recorded using an identification form, a data recording form, and a complication form. Information collected included the characteristics of the hospitals, the number and type of regional anesthetics (RA), the age of the involved children as well as the incidence, and type of complications.
Results: Data collected in 47 institutions included 104 612 pure general anesthesias (GAs), 29 870 GAs associated with regional blocks, and 1262 pure regional blocks. Central blocks accounted for 34% of all RA. Peripheral blocks (66%) were upper or lower limb blocks (29% of peripheral blocks), trunk blocks, and face blocks (71%). In children aged ≤3 years, the percentage of central blocks was similar to the peripheral ones (45% vs 55), while in older children, peripheral blocks were more than four times used than central ones. Complications (41 involving 40 patients) were rare and usually minor. They did not result in any sequelae. The study revealed an overall rate of complication of 0.12%; CI 95% [0.09–0.17], significantly six times higher for central than for peripheral blocks.
Conclusions: As a result of the low rate of complications, RA techniques have a good safety profile and can be used to provide postoperative analgesia. In addition, the results should encourage anesthesiologists to continue to use peripheral instead of central (including caudal) blocks as often as possible when appropriate.