The reliability of popliteal sciatic nerve blocks was prospectively assessed in 625 blocks performed in 507 patients. The sciatic nerve was approached at the apex of the popliteal fossa, in the midline, with an insulated needle connected to a peripheral nerve stimulator partially designed by one of the authors. When needed, an inguinal paravascular femoral nerve block was also performed. The drugs used were 1% mepivacaine or 0.5% bupivacaine with or without 1:200,000 epinephrine. The sciatic and femoral nerves were blocked with 30 ml and 10 ml of local anesthetic, respectively. The block was sufficient to provide surgical anesthesia in 92%; supplemental analgesia was necessary in 5% and general anesthesia was required in 3% of the cases. Discomfort associated with the block procedure was found to be minimal by 89% of the patients, moderate by 9% and severe by 2%. Overall satisfaction with perioperative analgesia was evaluated by 466 patients: 444 (95%) were completely satisfied, 20 (4%) expressed moderate reservations and two (1%) expressed major reservations. The authors conclude that the technique is a safe and reliable alternative to more common forms of anesthesia for surgery below the knee. They attribute the great success rate to a high popliteal approach, the use of insulated needles, a discriminating mode of nerve stimulation and the systematic search for optimal response to needle stimulation.
- Anesthetic techniques
- sciatic block
- peripheral nerve stimulator
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