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Br J Anaesth. 2007 Aug;99(2):159-69. Epub 2007 Jun 18.

Superficial or deep cervical plexus block for carotid endarterectomy: a systematic review of complications.

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  • 1Nuffield Department of Anaesthetics, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford OX3 9DU, UK.


Carotid endarterectomy is commonly conducted under regional (deep, superficial, intermediate, or combined) cervical plexus block, but it is not known if complication rates differ. We conducted a systematic review of published papers to assess the complication rate associated with superficial (or intermediate) and deep (or combined deep plus superficial/intermediate). The null hypothesis was that complication rates were equal. Complications of interest were: (1) serious complications related to the placement of block, (2) incidence of conversion to general anaesthesia, and (3) serious systemic complications of the surgical-anaesthetic process. We retrieved 69 papers describing a total of 7558 deep/combined blocks and 2533 superficial/intermediate blocks. Deep/combined block was associated with a higher serious complication rate related to the injecting needle when compared with the superficial/intermediate block (odds ratio 2.13, P = 0.006). The conversion rate to general anaesthesia was also higher with deep/combined block (odds ratio 5.15, P < 0.0001), but there was an equivalent incidence of other systemic serious complications (odds ratio 1.13, P = 0.273; NS). We conclude that superficial/intermediate block is safer than any method that employs a deep injection. The higher rate of conversion to general anaesthesia with the deep/combined block may have been influenced by the higher incidence of direct complications, but may also suggest that the superficial/combined block provides better analgesia during surgery.

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