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A Comparison of Proximal and Distal Radial Nerve Motor Responses in Axillary Block Using Triple Stimulation
  1. Salvatore Sia, M.D.,
  2. Antonella Lepri, M.D.,
  3. Manuela Magherini, M.D.,
  4. Lorenzo Doni, M.D.,
  5. Pietro Di Marco, M.D. and
  6. Gaetano Gritti, M.D.
  1. Department of Anesthesiology, Centro Traumatologico Ortopedico, Azienda Ospedaliera Careggi, Firenze, Italy
  1. Reprint requests: Salvatore Sia, M.D., Via Santelli 41, 50134 Firenze, Italy. E-mail: sia3{at}


Background and Objectives Stimulation of the radial nerve at the axilla may cause either a proximal movement (forearm extension) or distal movements (supination, wrist or finger extension). In the most recent studies on axillary block, only a distal twitch was accepted as valid. However, this approach was based only on clinical experience. The aim of this study was to verify if a proximal motor response can be considered a satisfactory endpoint.

Methods This was a prospective, randomized, double-blinded study. One hundred fifty patients received a triple-injection axillary brachial plexus block in which the radial nerve was located by a proximal (group PROX) or a distal motor response (group DIST). Patients were assessed for sensory and motor block of the branches of the radial nerve by a blinded investigator at 5-minute intervals over 30 minutes.

Results An 81% success rate for anesthetizing the sensory distal branches of the radial nerve was seen in group PROX; a significantly higher success rate was recorded in group DIST (95%). The onset time of sensory block for the distal branches of the radial nerve was significantly shorter in group DIST (9.9 ± 6 v 15.4 ± 7 minutes). The time to perform the block was slightly shorter and the localization of the nerve simpler in group PROX. The overall block success rate was not significantly different in the 2 groups.

Conclusions Local anesthetic injection at the proximal radial twitch significantly reduces the efficacy and prolongs the onset time of the radial nerve block. Searching for distal response is significantly more difficult and time consuming than searching for proximal response. However, it does not significantly increase patient discomfort or adverse effects.

  • Anesthetic technique
  • Regional
  • Brachial plexus
  • Axillary block
  • Nerve stimulation
  • Radial

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