Ultrasound Mapping of Stimulated Finger Flexion During Infra-Clavicular Brachial Plexus Nerve Blockade for Elbow Arthroplasty and Its Correlation To Postoperative Analgesia
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Background: Infraclavicular brachial plexus nerve blockade (ICNB) is a very common anesthetic procedure performed for upper extremity surgery at the elbow and distally, however the rate of adequate analgesia is variable among patients. Ultrasound guidance (US) has not been demonstrated to increase the success rate of ICNB when compared to nerve stimulator (NS) guidance. Combined US and NS guided ICNB have not been reported, although there is a call for more trials comparing the two techniques. This study was performed to observe if a specific anatomic region near the axillary artery of the brachial plexus identified by finger flexion with nerve stimulation results in improved postoperative analgesia. Method: Patients undergoing elective elbow arthroplasty received a postoperative ICNB. The angle of the nerve stimulator needle tip and the radial distance from the center of the arterial lumen at which an optimal finger flexion twitch response was observed were measured with ultrasound imaging. Pain scores and postoperative opioid dosages on discharge from the post anesthesia care unit and at 24 hours after surgery were recorded. Results: 11 patients enrolled in this study. Adequate finger flexion response to nerve stimulation that resulted in complete analgesia was more frequently observed when the needle was located in the postero-superior quadrant in relation to the axillary artery. Identifying a specific point near the brachial plexus in relation to the artery that consistently provides superior analgesia is desirable and would lead to improved analgesia and faster onset time of nerve blockade and would reduce the need for other approaches for brachial plexus blockade with their associated disadvantages.