Lower extremity fracture fixation is commonplace and represents the majority of orthopedic trauma surgical volume. Despite this, few studies have examined the use of regional anesthesia or neuraxial anesthesia (RA/NA) versus general anesthesia (GA) in this surgical population. We aimed to determine the overall rates of RA/NA use and whether RA/NA was associated with lower mortality and morbidity versus GA for patients with lower extremity orthopedic trauma.
We conducted a propensity-matched, retrospective cohort study of hospitalized patients. We used the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Project (ACS-NSQIP) dataset to identify patients undergoing surgical correction of low velocity orthopedic lower extremity traumas between 2011 and 2016. Patients were separated into 2 groups based on anesthesia type (RA/NA versus GA). The primary outcome was 30-day mortality. Secondary outcomes included return to the operating room, failure to wean from the ventilator, intubation, pneumonia, acute kidney injury, myocardial infarction, transfusion, venous thromboembolism (VTE), urinary tract infection, sepsis, length of stay, days from operation to discharge, number of complications, and unplanned readmission.
We identified 18,467 patients undergoing surgical repair of lower extremity fractures. Approximately 9.58% had RA/NA and 89.9% had GA as their primary anesthetic. After 1:1 propensity matching, the final cohort had 3254 patients. Our analysis did not find a difference in 30-day mortality between the 2 groups. There were also no significant differences in secondary outcomes.
Despite the potential advantages of RA/NA, utilization for lower extremity trauma was low in our analysis; only 9.58% of patients were in the RA/NA group, with the majority receiving spinal anesthesia. This may be due to surgeon preference to allow for postoperative monitoring for neurologic injury and compartment syndrome or logistical factors given the urgent nature of these trauma cases. No significant differences in 30-day mortality and postoperative complications were found between RA/NA and GA for patients with lower extremity orthopedic fractures. The choice of anesthesia is multifactorial and may be driven by patient and provider preferences in these operations.