Correlation between evoked motor response of the sciatic nerve and sensory blockade

H T Benzon, C Kim, H P Benzon, M E Silverstein, B Jericho, K Prillaman, R Buenaventura
Anesthesiology 1997, 87 (3): 547-52

BACKGROUND: Incomplete sensory blockade of the foot after sciatic nerve block in the popliteal fossa may be related to the motor response that was elicited when the block was performed. We investigated the appropriate motor response when a nerve stimulator is used in sciatic nerve block at the popliteal fossa.

METHODS: Six volunteers classified as American Society of Anesthesiologists' physical status I underwent 24 sciatic nerve blocks. Each volunteer had four sciatic nerve blocks. During each block, the needle was placed to evoke one of the following motor responses of the foot: eversion, inversion, plantar flexion, or dorsiflexion. Forty milliliters 1.5% lidocaine was injected after the motor response was elicited at < 1 mA intensity. Sensory blockade of the areas of the foot innervated by the posterior tibial, deep peroneal, superficial peroneal, and sural nerves was checked in a blinded manner. Motor blockade was graded on a three-point scale. The width of the sciatic nerve and the orientation of the tibial and common peroneal nerves were also examined in 10 cadavers.

RESULTS: A significantly greater number of posterior tibial, deep peroneal, superficial peroneal, and sural nerves were blocked when inversion or dorsiflexion was seen before injection than after eversion or plantar flexion (P < 0.05). Motor blockade of the foot was significantly greater after inversion. Anatomically, the tibial and common peroneal nerves may be separate from each other throughout their course. The sciatic nerve ranged from 0.9-1.5 cm in width and was divided into the tibial and common peroneal nerves at 8 +/- 3 (range, 4-13) cm above the popliteal crease.

CONCLUSIONS: Inversion is the motor response that best predicts complete sensory blockade of the foot. Incomplete blockade of the sciatic nerve may be a result of the size of the sciatic nerve, to separate fascial coverings of the tibial and common peroneal nerves, or to blockade of either the tibial or common peroneal nerves after branching from the sciatic nerve.

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