High-dose bupivacaine, levobupivacaine and ropivacaine in axillary brachial plexus block

O Liisanantti, J Luukkonen, P H Rosenberg
Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica 2004, 48 (5): 601-6

BACKGROUND: Racemic bupivacaine is clinically similar to levobupivacaine, or ropivacaine. The drugs were compared in brachial plexus block for the first time in the same randomized and double-blind study.

METHODS: In 90 patients scheduled for hand and forearm surgery, a perivascular axillary brachial plexus block was performed with 45 ml of 5 mg ml(-1) of either racemic bupivacaine-HCl, levobupivacaine-HCl, or ropivacaine-HCl. Sensory (cold) and motor (hand clasp, and movement of elbow) block were scored, and the patient was interviewed in the postoperative evening and the following morning. Time to normal function of the arm was registered.

RESULTS: After similar onsets of sensory block, the sum of completely anaesthetized innervation areas of the four main nerves at 45 min was greater in the ropivacaine group than in the levobupivacaine group (P < 0.01). Simultaneously, complete motor block at the elbow was more frequent in the ropivacaine group (67%) than in the bupivacaine (47%) and levobupivacaine groups (30%) (P < 0.01). In the hand, the corresponding results were 83%, 77%, and 57%, respectively (NS). Two patients in the levobupivacaine and one in the ropivacaine group needed general anaesthesia. Mean duration of the blocks was similar in the bupivacaine, levobupivacaine and ropivacaine groups at 19.3 h, 19.5 h, and 17.3 h, respectively (NS). Two patients were dissatisfied with the long block duration.

CONCLUSION: Ropivacaine-HCl 5 mg ml(-1) produced slightly better sensory and motor block intensity than the same dose of levobupivacaine-HCl. General success in relation to surgery and in the duration of the blocks was similar in the three groups.

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