• Article

Effects of local anesthetic concentration and dose on continuous interscalene nerve blocks


Le, L. T., Loland, V. J., Mariano, E. R., Gerancher, J. C., Wadhwa, A. N., Renehan, E. M., ... PAINfRE Investigators (2009). Effects of local anesthetic concentration and dose on continuous interscalene nerve blocks: A dual-center, randomized, observer-masked, controlled study. Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, 33(6), 518-525.


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: It is currently unknown if the primary determinant of continuous peripheral nerve block effects is simply total drug dose, or whether local anesthetic concentration and/or volume have an influence. We therefore tested the null hypothesis that providing ropivacaine at different concentrations and rates--but at an equal total basal dose--produces similar effects when used in a continuous interscalene nerve block.

METHODS: Preoperatively, an anterolateral interscalene perineural catheter was inserted using the anterolateral approach in patients undergoing moderately painful shoulder surgery. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive a postoperative perineural infusion of either 0.2% ropivacaine (basal 8 mL/h, bolus 4 mL) or 0.4% ropivacaine (basal 4 mL/h, bolus 2 mL) through the second postoperative day. Our primary endpoint was the incidence of an insensate hand/finger during the 24 hours beginning the morning following surgery.

RESULTS: The incidence of an insensate hand/finger did not differ between the treatment groups (n = 50) to a statistically significant degree (0.2% ropivacaine, mean [SD] of 0.8 [1.3] times; 0.4% ropivacaine, mean 0.3 [0.6] times; estimated difference = 0.5 episodes, 95% confidence interval, -0.1 to 1.1 episodes; P = .080). However, this is statistically inconclusive given the confidence interval. In contrast, pain (P = .020) and dissatisfaction (P = .011) were greater in patients given 0.4% ropivacaine.

CONCLUSIONS: For continuous interscalene nerve blocks, given the statistically inconclusive primary endpoint results and design limitations of the current study, further research on this topic is warranted. In contrast, providing a lower concentration of local anesthetic at a higher basal rate provided superior analgesia.