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Continuous shoulder analgesia via an indwelling axillary brachial plexus catheter

S S Reuben, R B Steinberg
Journal of Clinical Anesthesia 2000, 12 (6): 472-5
Continuous interscalene brachial plexus blockade can provide anesthesia and analgesia in the shoulder region. Difficulty accessing the interscalene space and premature displacement of interscalene catheters may preclude their use in certain situations. We present two case reports in which a catheter was advanced from the axilla along the brachial plexus sheath to the interscalene space to provide continuous cervicobrachial plexus analgesia. In the first case report, previous neck surgery made the anatomic landmarks for performing an interscalene block very difficult. An epidural catheter was advanced from the axillary brachial plexus sheath to the interscalene space under fluoroscopic guidance. This technique provided both intraoperative analgesia for shoulder surgery as well as 24-hour postoperative analgesia by an infusion of 0.125% bupivacaine. In the second case report, a catheter was inserted in a similar fashion from the axillary to the interscalene space to provide 14 days of continuous analgesia in the management of complex regional pain syndrome. We have found that this technique allows us to secure the catheter more easily than with the traditional interscalene approach and thus prevents premature dislodgment. This approach may be a suitable alternative when either an interscalene or an infraclavicular catheter may not be inserted.


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