Even as the use of peripheral nerve blockade in the perioperative setting is increasing, neural injury secondary to accidental intraneural injection remains a significant patient safety concern. Current modalities, including electrical stimulation and ultrasound imaging, still lack consistency and absolute reliability in both the detection and prevention of this complication. The measurement of electrical impedance (EI) could be an easy and valuable additional tool to detect intraneural needle placement. Our objectives in this study were to measure the change in EI with intraneural needle advancement in recently amputated human limbs.METHODS:
The study was conducted within 45 minutes of amputation. The nerves that were studied were the sciatic nerve in the popliteal fossa in above-knee amputations or the tibial nerve below the calf in below-knee amputations. The amputated limb was placed on a tray and under ultrasound imaging guidance, an insulated peripheral block needle connected to a nerve stimulator was placed extraneurally and subsequently advanced intraneurally. The experiment was repeated on the same nerve after exposure by surgical dissection. The differences in impedance measurements between intraneural and extraneural needle placement were compared.RESULTS:
In the below-knee amputated extremity (tibial nerve, n = 6) specimens based on the ultrasound methods, mean ± SD for ultrasound-guided intraneural impedance was 10 ± 2 kΩ compared with an extraneural impedance of 6 ± 1.6 kΩ (P = 0.005). The difference between intraneural and extraneural impedance after open dissection was also significant when we repeated the analysis based on the same specimens (P = 0.005). Similarly, in the above-the-knee amputated extremity (sciatic nerve, n = 5) specimens, mean intraneural impedance was 35.2 ± 7.9 kΩ compared with an extraneural impedance of 25.2 ± 5.3 kΩ (P = 0.037). The difference between intraneural and extraneural impedance obtained after open dissection was also significant when we repeated the analysis based on the same specimens (P = 0.0002). The impedance values were consistent and similar to those obtained after open dissection.CONCLUSIONS:
There is no reliable “gold standard” to predict or prevent intraneural needle placement during peripheral nerve blockade. This small sample-sized study demonstrated that there is a change in EI with intraneural needle advancement. In clinical practice, measurement of the EI in conjunction with nerve stimulation may serve as another tool to use for identifying intraneural needle placement during peripheral nerve blockade.