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Early Experience With Continuous Cervical Paravertebral Block Using a Stimulating Catheter
  1. André P. Boezaart, M.D., Ph.D.,
  2. Joe F. de Beer, MB.ChB., M.Med.(Orth) and
  3. Mercia L. Nell, R.N.
  1. From the Department of Anesthesia, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, IA (A.P.B.)
  2. Cape Shoulder Institute, Cape Town, South Africa (J.F.d.B)
  3. Bristol Nuffield Hospital, Clifton Hill, Bristol (M.L.N.)
  1. Reprint requests: André P. Boezaart, M.D., Ph.D., 200 Hawkins Drive, 6-JCP, Iowa City, IA 52242-1079, USA. E-mail: andre-boezaart{at}


Background and Objectives: This study reports our early experience with continuous cervical paravertebral block (CCPVB) using a stimulating catheter for the management of acute pain after shoulder surgery.

Methods: This prospective observational study presents 256 CCPVB for pain relief after 14 different shoulder operations. Surgery was performed under general anesthesia and blocks were placed prior to induction of general anesthesia (n = 81 [32%]), after induction of general anesthesia (n = 116 [45%]), or postoperatively in the recovery room (n = 59 [23%]). A bolus dose of 30 mL of 0.5% ropivacaine was followed by an infusion of 0.1 mL/kg/h of 0.2% ropivacaine. Patient- or nurse-initiated bolus doses of 10 mL of the same drug were used for breakthrough pain and rescue analgesics were available. Postoperative pain, patient satisfaction, and motor function in different parts of the upper limb were evaluated immediately after surgery (time 0), and then 6, 12, 24, 48, 60 hours, and 14 days postoperatively.

Results: An average of 2 (range 1-7) attempts were needed to advance the catheter while still stimulating the nerve. Average postoperative pain ranged from 0.27 ± 1.04 cm to 0.78 ± 1.56 cm (mean ± SD) on a visual analog scale (VAS) (0-10 cm) for the first 48 hours and 3.8 ± 2.1 cm and 3.5 ± 2.4 cm at 60 hours and 14 days, respectively. Patient satisfaction on a VAS of 0 to 5 was 4.19 ± 1.1, 4.28 ± 1.01, and 4.69 ± 1.05 at times 0, 6 hours, and 14 days, respectively. Motor function returned to normal in the fingers within 24 hours and in the shoulder within 60 hours. Complications included Horner's syndrome (40%), dyspnea (8%), superficial skin infection (5%), posterior neck pain (22%), subclavian artery puncture (1%), contralateral epidural spread (4%), and 8% of the patients complained of an unpleasant “dead feeling” of the arm. Ninety-one percent of patients would request CCPVB again for future shoulder surgery. There was no evidence of nerve damage.

  • Paravertebral block
  • Continuous nerve block
  • Posterior approach
  • Interscalene block
  • Shoulder surgery
  • Stimulating catheter

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  • Dr. Boezaart initiated the concept of nerve stimulation via both the needle and catheter and the development of the StimuCathTM. He also acts as consultant to Arrow International in the development of the StimuCath.