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A Comparison of Injection at the Ulnar and the Radial Nerve in Axillary Block Using Triple Stimulation
  1. Salvatore Sia, M.D.
  1. From the Department of Anesthesiology, Centro Traumatologico Ortopedico, Azienda Ospedaliera Careggi, Firenze, Italy
  1. Reprint requests: Salvatore Sia, Via Santelli 41, 50134 Firenze, Italy. E-mail: sia3{at}


Background and Objectives: A triple-stimulation technique for axillary block consists of the localization and injection of 2 nerves, median and musculocutaneous, which lie superior to the axillary artery, and of 1 nerve, the radial, which lies inferior. However, in some patients, the ulnar nerve is located first during the search for the radial nerve. The aim of this study was to verify if an ulnar motor response could be considered a satisfactory endpoint as a radial motor response.

Methods: This study was a prospective, randomized, double-blinded study. Ninety patients received a triple-injection axillary brachial plexus block in which the radial nerve (group RAD) or the ulnar nerve (group ULN) was located and injected inferior to the axillary artery. Patients were assessed for sensory and motor block by a blinded investigator at 5-minute intervals over 30 minutes.

Results: A statistically significant higher overall block success rate was recorded in group RAD (91% vs. 73%), and this result was related to a larger success rate for anesthetizing the radial nerve (95% vs. 77%). A statistically significant shorter onset time of sensory block for the radial nerve was recorded in group RAD versus group ULN (9 ± 5 min vs. 16 ± 7 min), whereas the reverse was true for the ulnar nerve (13 ± 7 min for group RAD vs. 10 ± 3 min for group ULN). The time to perform the block was slightly but statistically significantly shorter in group ULN (6.5 ± 1.7 min vs. 7.8 ± 1.8 min).

Conclusions: Local anesthetic injection at the ulnar nerve significantly reduces the efficacy and prolongs the onset time of the radial-nerve block when triple-stimulation axillary block is performed.

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

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