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COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

Continuous interscalene brachial plexus block via an ultrasound-guided posterior approach: a randomized, triple-masked, placebo-controlled study

Edward R Mariano, Robert Afra, Vanessa J Loland, Navparkash S Sandhu, Richard H Bellars, Michael L Bishop, Gloria S Cheng, Lynna P Choy, Rosalita C Maldonado, Brian M Ilfeld
Anesthesia and Analgesia 2009, 108 (5): 1688-94
19372355

BACKGROUND: The posterior approach for placing continuous interscalene catheters has not been studied in a controlled investigation. In this randomized, triple-masked, placebo-controlled study, we tested the hypothesis that an ultrasound-guided continuous posterior interscalene block provides superior postoperative analgesia compared to a single-injection ropivacaine interscalene block after moderately painful shoulder surgery.

METHODS: Preoperatively, subjects received a stimulating interscalene catheter using an ultrasound-guided, in-plane posterior approach. All subjects received an initial bolus of ropivacaine. Postoperatively, subjects were discharged with oral analgesics and a portable infusion device containing either ropivacaine 0.2% or normal saline programmed to deliver a perineural infusion over 2 days. The primary outcome was average pain on postoperative day (POD) 1 (scale: 0-10). Secondary outcomes included least and worst pain scores, oral opioid requirements, sleep disturbances, patient satisfaction, and incidence of complications.

RESULTS: Of the 32 subjects enrolled, 30 perineural catheters were placed per protocol. Continuous ropivacaine perineural infusion (n = 15) produced a statistically and clinically significant reduction in average pain (median [10th-90th percentile]) on POD 1 compared with saline infusion (n = 15) after initial ropivacaine bolus (0.0 [0.0-5.0] versus 3.0 [0.0-6.0], respectively; P < 0.001). Median oral opioid consumption (oxycodone) was lower in the ropivacaine group than in the placebo group on POD 1 (P = 0.002) and POD 2 (P = 0.002). Subjects who received a ropivacaine infusion suffered fewer sleep disturbances than those in the placebo group (P = 0.005 on POD 0 and 1 nights) and rated their satisfaction with analgesia higher than subjects who received normal saline (P < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Compared to a single-injection interscalene block, a 2-day continuous posterior interscalene block provides greater pain relief, minimizes supplemental opioid requirements, greatly improves sleep quality, and increases patient satisfaction after moderate-to-severe painful outpatient shoulder surgery.

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