JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Lateral popliteal block in foot and ankle surgery: Comparing ultrasound guidance to nerve stimulation. A prospective randomized trial.

BACKGROUND: The popliteal block has several benefits in foot and ankle surgery. It reduces postoperative pain, limits the use of narcotics and facilitates early discharge. The aim of this prospective randomized trial was to evaluate whether ultrasound guidance improves block characteristics compared to the nerve stimulation technique in lateral popliteal blocks.

METHODS: Patients were randomized to receive either a lateral popliteal block using neurostimulation or ultrasound guidance. Block performance time, number of needle pricks, number of redirections were recorded. Pain upon admission to and discharge from post anesthesia care unit (PACU) was recorded. Block duration, patient satisfaction, pain at block site and amount of opioids used in PACU and between subsequent followup visits was recorded. Patients were followed for 12 weeks postoperatively.

RESULTS: There was no statistically significant difference between the two groups in terms of number of pricks, time for the block to wean, pain upon admission to PACU, amount of opioids received in PACU, pain upon discharge from PACU, pain at the operative site, pain at the block site, toe motor function and toe sensation. There was a statistically significant difference in the block procedure performance time between the two groups, with the control group being faster (P<0.0001). A significantly larger number of patients in the control group required more than three needle redirections (P=0.0060).

CONCLUSIONS: The lateral sciatic popliteal block using nerve stimulation had similar block characteristics and patient satisfaction with a significantly faster performance time compared to the ultrasound guided technique.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level I, prospective randomized study.

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