We prospectively studied 40 patients (ASA grades IIII) undergoing surgery of the forearm and hand, to investigate the use of ultrasonic cannula guidance for supraclavicular brachial plexus block and its effect on success rate and frequency of complications. Patients were randomized into Group S (supraclavicular paravascular approach; n = 20) and Group A (axillary approach; n = 20). Ultrasonographic study of the plexus sheath was done. After visualization of the anatomy, the plexus sheath was penetrated using a 24-gauge cannula. Plexus block was performed using 30 mL bupivacaine 0.5%. Onset of sensory and motor block of the radial, ulnar, and median nerves was recorded in 10-min intervals for 1 h. Satisfactory surgical anesthesia was attained in 95% of both groups. In Group A, 25% showed an incomplete sensory block of the musculocutaneous nerve, whereas all patients in Group S had a block of this nerve. Complete sensory block of the radial, median, and ulnar nerves was attained after an average of 40 min without a significant difference between the two groups. Because of the direct ultrasonic view of the cervical pleura, we had no cases of pneumothorax. An accidental puncture of subclavian or axillary vessels, as well as neurologic damage, was avoided in all cases. An ultrasonography-guided approach for supraclavicular block combines the safety of axillary block with the larger extent of block of the supraclavicular approach.
Address correspondence and reprint requests to Stephan Kapral, MD, Department of Anesthesia and General Intensive Care, University of Vienna, 18–20, Waehringer Guertel, A-1090 Vienna, Austria.
© 1994 International Anesthesia Research Society