The majority of people with hip fracture are treated surgically, requiring anaesthesia.
The main focus of this review is the comparison of regional versus general anaesthesia for hip (proximal femoral) fracture repair in adults. We did not consider supplementary regional blocks in this review as they have been studied in another review.
We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL; the Cochrane Library; 2014, Issue 3), MEDLINE (Ovid SP, 2003 to March 2014) and EMBASE (Ovid SP, 2003 to March 2014).
We included randomized trials comparing different methods of anaesthesia for hip fracture surgery in adults. The primary focus of this review was the comparison of regional anaesthesia versus general anaesthesia. The use of nerve blocks preoperatively or in conjunction with general anaesthesia is evaluated in another review. The main outcomes were mortality, pneumonia, myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular accident, acute confusional state, deep vein thrombosis and return of patient to their own home.
Two reviewers independently assessed trial quality and extracted data. We analysed data with fixed-effect (I(2) < 25%) or random-effects models. We assessed the quality of the evidence according to the criteria developed by the GRADE working group.
In total, we included 31 studies (with 3231 participants) in our review. Of those 31 studies, 28 (2976 participants) provided data for the meta-analyses. For the 28 studies, 24 were used for the comparison of neuraxial block versus general anaesthesia. Based on 11 studies that included 2152 participants, we did not find a difference between the two anaesthetic techniques for mortality at one month: risk ratio (RR) 0.78, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.57 to 1.06; I(2) = 24% (fixed-effect model). Based on six studies that included 761 participants, we did not find a difference in the risk of pneumonia: RR 0.77, 95% CI 0.45 to 1.31; I(2) = 0%. Based on four studies that included 559 participants, we did not find a difference in the risk of myocardial infarction: RR 0.89, 95% CI 0.22 to 3.65; I(2) = 0%. Based on six studies that included 729 participants, we did not find a difference in the risk of cerebrovascular accident: RR 1.48, 95% CI 0.46 to 4.83; I(2) = 0%. Based on six studies that included 624 participants, we did not find a difference in the risk of acute confusional state: RR 0.85, 95% CI 0.51 to 1.40; I(2) = 49%. Based on laboratory tests, the risk of deep vein thrombosis was decreased when no specific precautions or just early mobilization was used: RR 0.57, 95% CI 0.41 to 0.78; I(2) = 0%; (number needed to treat for an additional beneficial outcome (NNTB) = 3, 95% CI 2 to 7, based on a basal risk of 76%) but not when low molecular weight heparin was administered: RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.52 to 1.84; I(2) for heterogeneity between the two subgroups = 58%. For neuraxial blocks compared to general anaesthesia, we rated the quality of evidence as very low for mortality (at 0 to 30 days), pneumonia, myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular accident, acute confusional state, decreased rate of deep venous thrombosis in the absence of potent thromboprophylaxis, and return of patient to their own home. The number of studies comparing other anaesthetic techniques was limited.
We did not find a difference between the two techniques, except for deep venous thrombosis in the absence of potent thromboprophylaxis. The studies included a wide variety of clinical practices. The number of participants included in the review is insufficient to eliminate a difference between the two techniques in the majority of outcomes studied. Therefore, large randomized trials reflecting actual clinical practice are required before drawing final conclusions.