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Ultrasound brachial plexus anesthesia and analgesia for upper extremity surgery: essentials of our current understanding, 2011.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Ultrasound-guidance is gaining tremendous popularity. There is growing evidence of value with emphasis on clinical relevance, but can ultrasound-guidance scientifically warrant changing the practice of upper extremity regional? The literature is searched to describe findings where ultrasound may reduce complication rates, reduce block performance times, and improve block efficacy and quality.

RECENT FINDINGS: Ultrasound examination identified variations in anatomical positioning of C5-C7 roots in approximately half of all patients despite no deleterious effects on block efficacy. Anesthetic volumes in brachial plexus blockade may be reduced without compromise of effectiveness. However, even with reduced volumes injected into the interscalene space, respiratory compromise from effect(s) on the phrenic nerve may result in hemi-diaphragmatic paresis. Ultrasound-guidance may reduce discomfort during axillary block placement compared with neurostimulation or parasthesia. Nerve catheters may be highly effective and provide prolonged analgesia compared with single-shot injections. Infraclavicular catheters result in improved analgesia compared with supraclavicular catheters and multiple injections of local provide no advantage over single-shot infraclavicular blockade. Dexamethasone combined with local may extend analgesia following a single-injection interscalene or supraclavicular block. During interscalene blockade, intraepineurial injections may occur, but incidence of nerve injury remains low. Therefore, debate continues about intraepineurial injections.

SUMMARY: Intraepineurial injection requires additional investigation. Conclusions have suggested reducing typical volumes (40  ml) of local with ultrasound-directed upper extremity blockade. Increased use of perineural catheters is being advocated for prolonged analgesia, but risk-to-benefit consequences need to always be considered.

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