Management of an Acute Exacerbation of Chronic Neuropathic Pain in the Emergency Department: A Case to Support Ultrasound-Guided Forearm Nerve Blocks.
Acute on chronic neuropathic pain is often refractory to analgesics and can be challenging to treat in the emergency department (ED). In addition, systemic medications such as opiates and nonsteroidal inflammatory drugs have risks, including hypotension and kidney injury, respectively. Difficulties in managing pain in patients with neuropathy can lead to prolonged ED stays, undesired admissions, and subsequent increased health care costs. We describe the case of a 51-year-old woman who presented to the ED on two separate occasions for left forearm pain secondary to chronic ulnar neuropathy. During her first ED visit, the patient received multiple rounds of intravenous opiates and required hospital admission, which was complicated by opiate-induced hypotension. During her second visit, she underwent an ultrasound-guided ulnar nerve block performed by the emergency physician; her pain resolved and she was discharged home. WHY SHOULD EMERGENCY PHYSICIANS BE AWARE OF THIS?: Ultrasound-guided nerve blocks are an effective, safe, and relatively inexpensive alternative to opioids. Our case demonstrates that emergency providers may be able to perform ultrasound-guided regional anesthesia to treat an acute exacerbation of chronic neuropathic pain.