Improving postoperative analgesia after axillary brachial plexus anesthesia with 0.75% ropivacaine. A double-blind evaluation of adding clonidine

A Casati, L Magistris, P Beccaria, G Cappelleri, G Aldegheri, G Fanelli
Minerva Anestesiologica 2001, 67 (5): 407-12

BACKGROUND: The aim of this prospective, randomized, double-blind study was to evaluate the effects of adding 1 microg/kg clonidine to 20 ml of ropivacaine 0.75% for axillary brachial plexus anesthesia.

METHODS: With Ethical Committee approval and written consent, 30 ASA physical status I-II in-patients, undergoing upper extremity orthopedic procedures were randomly allocated to receive axillary brachial plexus block with 20 ml of 0.75% ropivacaine alone (group ropivacaine, n = 15) or 0.75% ropivacaine + 1 microg/kg clonidine (group ropivacaine-clonidine, n = 15). Nerve blocks were placed using a nerve stimulator with the multiple injection technique (stimulation frequency was 2 Hz; stimulation intensity was decreased to < or = 0.5 mA after each muscular twitch; the anesthetic volume was equally divided among arm flexion, arm extension, wrist flexion, and thumb adduction). A blinded observer recorded the time required to achieve surgical block [loss of pinprick sensation in the innervation areas of the hand (C6-C8) with concomitant inability to move the wrist and hand] and first analgesic request.

RESULTS: No differences in demography, degree of sedation, peripheral oxygen saturation, and hemodynamic variables were observed between the two groups. Readiness for surgery required 15 min (5-36 min) with 0.75% ropivacaine and 20 min (5-30 min) with the ropivacaine-clonidine mixture. The degree of pain measured at first analgesic request, and consumption of postoperative analgesics were similar in the two groups; while first postoperative analgesic request occurred after 13.8 h (25th-75th percentiles: 9.1-13 h) in the ropivacaine group and 15.2 h (25th-75th percentiles: 10.7-16 h) in the ropivacaine-clonidine group (p = 0.04).

CONCLUSIONS: Adding 1 microg/kg clonidine to 20 ml of ropivacaine 0.75% for axillary brachial plexus anesthesia provided a 3 h delay in first analgesic request postoperatively, without clinically relevant effects on the degree of sedation and cardiovascular homeostasis.

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