Objective: Discrepancies in the definition of adductor canal block (ACB) lead to inconsistent results. To investigate the actual analgesic and motor-sparing effects of ACB by anatomically defining femoral triangle block (FTB), proximal ACB (p-ACB), and distal ACB (d-ACB), we re-classified the previously claimed ACB approaches according to the ultrasound findings or descriptions in the corresponding published articles. A meta-analysis with subsequent subgroup analyses based on these corrected results was performed to examine the true impact of ACB on its analgesic effect and motor function (quadriceps muscle strength or mobilization ability). An optimal ACB technique was also suggested based on an updated review of evidence and ultrasound anatomy. Materials and Methods: We systematically searched studies describing the use of ACB for knee surgery. Cochrane Library, PubMed, Web of Science, and Embase were searched with the exclusion of non-English articles from inception to 28 February 2022. The motor-sparing and analgesic aspects in true ACB were evaluated using meta-analyses with subsequent subgroup analyses according to the corrected classification system. Results: The meta-analysis includes 19 randomized controlled trials. Compared with the femoral nerve block group, the quadriceps muscle strength (standardized mean difference (SMD) = 0.33, 95%-CI [0.01; 0.65]) and mobilization ability (SMD = −22.44, 95%-CI [−35.37; −9.51]) are more preserved in the mixed ACB group at 24 h after knee surgery. Compared with the true ACB group, the FTB group (SMD = 5.59, 95%-CI [3.44; 8.46]) has a significantly decreased mobilization ability at 24 h after knee surgery. Conclusion: By using the corrected classification system, we proved the motor-sparing effect of true ACB compared to FTB. According to the updated ultrasound anatomy, we suggested proximal ACB to be the analgesic technique of choice for knee surgery. Although a single-shot ACB is limited in duration, it remains the candidate of the analgesic standard for knee surgery on postoperative day 1 or 2 because it induces analgesia with less motor involvement in the era of multimodal analgesia. Furthermore, data from the corrected classification system may provide the basis for future research.
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