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Should We Add Clonidine to Local Anesthetic for Peripheral Nerve Blockade? A Qualitative Systematic Review of the Literature
  1. Colin J.L. McCartney, M.B.Ch.B., F.R.C.A., F.R.C.P.C.,
  2. Edel Duggan, M.D., F.F.A.R.C.S.I. and
  3. Emma Apatu, B.A.
  1. Department of Anesthesia, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. Department of Anesthesia and Pain Management, Toronto Western Hospital University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  1. Reprint requests: Colin J. L. McCartney, M.B. Ch.B., F.R.C.A., F.R.C.P.C., Department of Health Sciences Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, 2075 Bayview Avenue, Toronto M4N 3M5, Ontario, Canada. E-mail: colin.mccartney{at}


Background and Objectives: Although clonidine has been shown to prolong analgesia in central neuraxial blocks, its use in peripheral nerve blocks remains controversial. We performed a systematic review of the current literature to determine the benefit of adding clonidine to peripheral nerve blocks.

Methods: A systematic, qualitative review of double-blind randomized controlled trials on the benefit of clonidine as an adjunct to peripheral nerve block was performed. Studies were identified by searching PubMed ( and EMBASE ( databases (July 1991 to October 2006) for terms related to clonidine as an adjunct to peripheral nerve blocks. Studies were classified as supportive if the use of clonidine demonstrated reduced pain and total analgesic consumption, or prolonged block duration versus negative if no difference was found.

Results: Twenty-seven studies were identified that met the inclusion criteria. Five studies included a systemic control group. The total number of patients reviewed was 1,385. The dose of clonidine varied from 30 to 300 μg. Overall 15 studies supported the use of clonidine as an adjunct to peripheral nerve blocks with 12 studies failing to show a benefit. Based on qualitative analysis, clonidine appeared to prolong analgesia when added to intermediate-acting local anesthetics for axillary and peribulbar blocks.

Conclusions: Clonidine improves duration of analgesia and anesthesia when used as an adjunct to intermediate-acting local anesthetics for some peripheral nerve blocks. Side-effects appear to be limited at doses up to 150 μg. Evidence is lacking for the use of clonidine as an adjunct to local anesthetics for continuous catheter techniques. Further research is required to examine the peripheral analgesic mechanism of clonidine.

  • Adjunct
  • Clonidine
  • Local anesthetic
  • Peripheral nerve block

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