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Can J Anaesth. 2010 Oct;57(10):919-26. doi: 10.1007/s12630-010-9364-7. Epub 2010 Aug 11.

Comparative efficacy of ultrasound-guided and stimulating popliteal-sciatic perineural catheters for postoperative analgesia.

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Department of Anesthesiology, University of California San Diego, 200 West Arbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92103-8770, USA.



Perineural catheter insertion using ultrasound guidance alone is a relatively new approach. Previous studies have shown that ultrasound-guided catheters take less time to place with high placement success rates, but the analgesic efficacy compared with the established stimulating catheter technique remains unknown. We tested the hypothesis that popliteal-sciatic perineural catheter insertion relying exclusively on ultrasound guidance results in superior postoperative analgesia compared with stimulating catheters.


Preoperatively, subjects receiving a popliteal-sciatic perineural catheter for foot or ankle surgery were assigned randomly to either ultrasound guidance (bolus via needle with non-stimulating catheter insertion) or electrical stimulation (bolus via catheter). We used 1.5% mepivacaine 40 mL for the primary surgical nerve block and 0.2% ropivacaine (basal 8 mL·hr(-1); bolus 4 mL; 30 min lockout) was infused postoperatively. The primary outcome was average surgical pain on postoperative day one.


Forty of the 80 subjects enrolled were randomized to each treatment group. One of 40 subjects (2.5%) in the ultrasound group failed catheter placement per protocol vs nine of 40 (22.5%) in the stimulating catheter group (P = 0.014). The difference in procedural duration (mean [95% confidence interval (CI)]) was -6.48 (-9.90 - -3.05) min, with ultrasound requiring 7.0 (4.0-14.1) min vs stimulation requiring 11.0 (5.0-30.0) min (P < 0.001). The average pain scores of subjects who provided data on postoperative day one were somewhat higher for the 33 ultrasound subjects than for the 26 stimulation subjects (5.0 [1.0-7.8] vs 3.0 [0.0-6.5], respectively; P = 0.032), a difference (mean [95%CI]) of 1.37 (0.03-2.71).


For popliteal-sciatic perineural catheters, ultrasound guidance takes less time and results in fewer placement failures compared with stimulating catheters. However, analgesia may be mildly improved with successfully placed stimulating catheters. Clinical trial registration number NCT00876681.

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