COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

Ultrasound-guided axillary brachial plexus block with 20 milliliters local anesthetic mixture versus general anesthesia for upper limb trauma surgery: an observer-blinded, prospective, randomized, controlled trial

Brian D O'Donnell, Helen Ryan, Owen O'Sullivan, Gabrielle Iohom
Anesthesia and Analgesia 2009, 109 (1): 279-83
19535722

OBJECTIVE: We performed a randomized, controlled trial comparing low-dose ultrasound-guided axillary block with general anesthesia evaluating anesthetic and perioperative analgesic outcomes.

METHODS: Patients were randomized to either ultrasound-guided axillary block or general anesthesia. Ultrasound-guided axillary block was performed using a needle-out-of-plane approach. Up to 5 mL of local anesthetic injectate (equal parts 2% lidocaine with 1:200,000 epinephrine and 0.5% bupivacaine with 7.5 mg/mL clonidine) was injected after identifying the median, ulnar, radial, and musculocutaneous nerves. A maximum of 20 mL local anesthetic injectate was used. General anesthesia was standardized to include induction with fentanyl and propofol, maintenance with sevoflurane in an oxygen/nitrous oxide mixture. Pain scores were measured in the recovery room and at 2, 6, 24, 48 h, and 7 days. Ability to bypass the recovery room and time to achieve hospital discharge criteria were also assessed.

RESULTS: All ultrasound-guided axillary block patients achieved satisfactory anesthesia. The ultrasound-guided axillary block group had lower visual analog scale pain scores in the recovery room (0.3 [1.3] vs 55.8 [36.5], P < 0.001), and visual rating scale pain scores at 2 h (0.3 [1.3] vs 45 [29.6], P < 0.001), and at 6 h (1.1 [2.7] vs 4 [2.8], P < 0.01). All ultrasound-guided axillary block patients bypassed the recovery room and attained earlier hospital discharge criteria (30 min vs 120 min 30/240 P < 0.0001 median [range]).

CONCLUSIONS: Ultrasound-guided axillary brachial plexus block with 20 mL local anesthetic mixture provided satisfactory anesthesia and superior analgesia after upper limb trauma surgery when compared with general anesthesia.

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