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The Incidence of Neurovascular Complications Following Axillary Brachial Plexus Block Using a Transarterial Approach: A Prospective Study of 1,000 Consecutive Patients
  1. Thomas C. Stan, M.D.*,
  2. Mark A. Krantz, M.D.,
  3. Daniel L. Solomon, M.D.*,
  4. John G. Poulos, M.D. and
  5. Khaled Chaouki, M.D.
  1. *Crystal Clinic Surgery Center, Cleveland, Ohio
  2. Meridia Huron Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio
  1. Reprint requests: Thomas C. Stan, M.D., Crystal Clinic Surgery Center, 3975 Embassy Parkway, Akron, OH 44333.


Background and Objectives. The present study was performed at the Crystal Clinic Surgery Center, an outpatient free-standing surgicenter specializing in orthopedic surgery, to determine the incidence of both neurologic and vascular sequelae associated with exclusive use of a transarterial approach to axillary brachial plexus block in order to assess the technique's safety and efficacy.

Methods. The prospective consecutive study involved 1,000 adult patients scheduled for surgery using axillary brachial plexus block. The transarterial approach was performed on all patients using a medium-bevel 24-gauge Jelco 1-5-inch needle. Data tabulated included the incidence of neurovascular complications and the outcome of successful axillary brachial plexus anesthesia.

Results. Two patients presented with a sensory paresthesia (0.2%) in the distribution of the ulnar nerve and the musculocutaneous nerve that most likely occurred during supplementation of an incomplete block. Three patients presented with upper-arm myalgias (0.3%) related to tourniquet injury. After the operation, two patients developed reflex sympathetic dystrophy, which responded to stellate ganglion blocks. Vascular complications, including transient arterial spasm in 10 of 996 (1%), unintentional intravascular injection in 2 of 996 (0.2%), and small (0-2 cm) hematoma formation in 2 of 996 (0.2%), were recognized but did not require any intervention other than close observation. The study revealed a complete block in 88.8% of cases, an incomplete block requiring supplemental local anesthesia in 10% of cases, and a complete block failure in 1.2%.

Conclusions. This study demonstrated the safety and efficacy of the transarterial technique in achieving brachial plexus block.

  • brachial plexus block
  • neuropathy
  • vascular complications

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  • Work for this study was done at the Crystal Clinic Surgery Center, Akron, Ohio, and has not been presented at any meeting or conference. This study was not supported by a grant.