The minimum effective anesthetic volume of 0.75% ropivacaine in ultrasound-guided interscalene brachial plexus block

Philippe Gautier, Catherine Vandepitte, Caroline Ramquet, Mieke DeCoopman, Daquan Xu, Admir Hadzic
Anesthesia and Analgesia 2011, 113 (4): 951-5

BACKGROUND: The use of ultrasound to monitor needle placement and spread of local anesthetics (LA) has allowed reductions in the volume of LA required to anesthetize peripheral nerves. In the current study we investigated the minimal volume necessary to accomplish surgical anesthesia with interscalene brachial plexus block.

METHODS: Twenty ASA physical status I-III patients, ages 18 to 75 years and scheduled for shoulder surgery under interscalene brachial plexus block, were enrolled. Using a previously validated step-up/step-down method, we determined the injection volume of 0.75% ropivacaine used for consecutive patients by the outcome of the preceding block. The starting volume was 15 mL (3 injections of 5 mL per each trunk); in the case of block failure, the volume was increased by 1 mL, whereas after successful block, the volume was reduced by 1 mL. The study was stopped upon achieving the secondary stopping rule of 10 consecutive successful interscalane blocks using 5 mL of ropivacaine 0.75%. Successful surgical anesthesia with the brachial plexus block was defined as presence of adequate motor block (motor score of ≤2 on 0 to 4 scale), absent sensation to cold and pinprick sensation within 30 minutes of injection, and absence of the need for general anesthesia for completion of surgery. Duration of sensory blockade was assessed by asking the patient to record the time of first pain sensation.

RESULTS: Under our study conditions, successful surgical anesthesia for arthroscopic shoulder surgery can be achieved with 5 mL of 0.75% ropivacaine, or approximately 1.7 mL per each of the 3 trunks of the brachial plexus (superior, middle, and inferior). The study was stopped after 10 consecutive successful blocks with 5 mL of LA (100%, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 74.1%-100%). For the group as a whole, the median (range) sensory block onset time was 5 (5-20) minutes, the median (range) motor block for the biceps was 7.5 (5-15) minutes, and for abduction 10 (5-15) minutes. The median (range) block duration was 9.9 (5-19) hours, and the mean (SD) block performance time was 8.0 ± 3.2 minutes. Mean duration of analgesia was 9.9 ± 3.7 hours. Duration of analgesia was not associated with volume of LA (r = 0.05, P = 0.83).

CONCLUSIONS: All patients in our study had successful surgical blocks with 5 mL of LA. However, the lower limit of the CI (calculated on the assumption of a single failure) does include the possibility of a 25% failure rate; thus studies using similar stopping rules for doses higher than 5 mL are nonetheless warranted.

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