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High volume and low concentration of anaesthetic solution in the perivascular interscalene sheath determines qualityof block and incidence of complications

Pippa, P.*; Cuomo, P.; Panchetti, A.*; Scarchini, M.; Poggi, G.*; D'Arienzo, M.

European Journal of Anaesthesiology (EJA): October 2006 - Volume 23 - Issue 10 - p 855–860
doi: 10.1017/S0265021506001074
Original Article

Background and objective: In the perivascular sheath of the brachial plexus, the volume of anaesthetic solution determines the quality of anaesthetic cover. Fibrous septa may divide the perivascular space into compartments, leading to inadequate diffusion of the anaesthetic solution. The aim of our study was to obtain good anaesthesia and less complications using high volume of low concentration anaesthetic solution, overcoming the obstacle of the septa with a double approach to the scalene sheath.

Methods: Sixty patients scheduled for shoulder capsuloplasty received both Winnie interscalene brachial plexus block and Pippa proximal cranial needle approach. The patients were randomly assigned to two groups. A constant dose of local anaesthetic was administered to each group: Group I (30 patients) received high volume (60 mL of anaesthetic solution) and Group II (30 patients) received low volume of solution (30 mL of anaesthetic solution). Sensory and motor block in the upper limb and complications were evaluated.

Results: In all the patients the quality of anaesthesia obtained at the surgical site was excellent. In Group I also the areas supplied by the medial cutaneous nerves of the arm and forearm, ulnar, median and radial nerves were blocked (P < 0.002). Complications were only observed in Group II and consisted of bradycardia and hypotension (66% of the patients) and phrenic nerve paresis (27% of the patients).

Conclusions: The lower concentration of the anaesthetic solution avoids complications while increased volume provides good analgesic cover. The combination of the Winnie interscalene plexus block and the Pippa proximal cranial needle approach should contribute to fill up the scalene sheath overcoming the septa obstacles.

*University of Florence, Department of Anaesthesiology, Florence, Italy

University of Florence, Department of Orthopaedics, Florence, Italy

Correspondence to: Pierluigi Cuomo, Department of Orthopaedics, University of Florence, Florence, Italy. E-mail:

Accepted for publication 16 January 2006

First published online 11 July 2006

© 2006 European Society of Anaesthesiology