Ultrasound Guidance Speeds Execution and Improves the Quality of Supraclavicular Block

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In this prospective study, we assessed the quality, safety, and execution time of supraclavicular block of the brachial plexus using ultrasonic guidance and neurostimulation compared with a supraclavicular technique that used anatomical landmarks and neurostimulation. It was hypothesized that ultrasonic guidance would increase the proportion of successful blocks, decrease block execution time, and reduce the incidence of complications such as pneumothorax and neuropathy. Eighty patients were randomized into two groups of 40, Group US (supraclavicular block guided in real time by a two-dimensional ultrasonic image, with neurostimulator confirmation of correct needle position) and Group NS (supraclavicular block using the subclavian perivascular approach, also with neurostimulator confirmation). Blocks were performed using bupivacaine 0.5% and lidocaine 2% (1:1 vol) with epinephrine 1:200,000 as the anesthetic mixture. The onset of motor and sensory block for the musculocutaneous, median, radial, and ulnar nerves was evaluated over a 30 min period. At 30 min 95% of patients in Group US and 85% of patients in Group NS had a partial or complete sensory block of all nerve territories (P = 0.13) and 55% of patients in Group US and 65% of patients in Group NS had a complete block of all nerve territories (P = 0.25). Surgical anesthesia without supplementation was achieved in 85% of patients in Group US and 78% of patients in Group NS (P = 0.28). No patient in Group US and 8% of patients in Group NS required general anesthesia (P = 0.12). The quality of ulnar block was significantly inferior to the quality of block in other nerve territories in Group NS, but not in Group US; the quality of ulnar block was not significantly different between Groups NS and US. The block was performed in an average of 9.8 min in Group NS and 5.0 min in Group US (P = 0.0001). No major complication occurred in either group. We conclude that ultrasound-guided neurostimulator-confirmed supraclavicular block is more rapidly performed and provides a more complete block than supraclavicular block using anatomic landmarks and neurostimulator confirmation.

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