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A Prospective, Randomized Comparison Between Ultrasound-Guided Supraclavicular, Infraclavicular, and Axillary Brachial Plexus Blocks
  1. De Quang Hieu Tran, MD, FRCPC,
  2. Gianluca Russo, MD,
  3. Loreto Muñoz, MD,
  4. Cedrick Zaouter, MD and
  5. Roderick J. Finlayson, MD, FRCPC
  1. From the Department of Anesthesia, Montreal General Hospital, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
  1. Address correspondence to: De Quang Hieu Tran, MD, FRCPC, Department of Anesthesia, Montreal General Hospital, 1650 Ave Cedar, D10-144. Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3G-1A4 (e-mail: de_tran{at}


Background: This prospective, randomized, observer-blinded study compared ultrasound-guided supraclavicular (SCB), infraclavicular (ICB), and axillary (AXB) brachial plexus blocks for upper extremity surgery of the elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand.

Methods: One hundred twenty patients were randomly allocated to receive an ultrasound-guided SCB (n = 40), ICB (n = 40), or AXB (n = 40). Performance time (defined as the sum of imaging and needling times) and the number of needle passes were recorded during the performance of the block. Subsequently, a blinded observer recorded the onset time, block-related pain scores, success rate (surgical anesthesia), and the incidence of complications. The main outcome variable was the total anesthesia-related time, defined as the sum of performance and onset times.

Results: No differences were observed between the 3 groups in terms of total anesthesia-related time (23.1-25.5 mins), success rate (95%-97.5%), block-related pain scores, vascular puncture, and paresthesia. Compared with the supraclavicular and infraclavicular approaches, ultrasound-guided AXBs required a higher number of needle passes (6.1 [SD, 2.0] vs 2.0-2.6 [SD, 1.1-1.8]; both P ≤ 0.001), a longer needling time (7.4 mins [SD, 2.2 mins] vs 4.9-5.5 mins [SD, 1.9-4.2 mins]; both P ≤ 0.016), and a longer performance time (8.5 mins [SD, 2.3 mins] vs 6.0-6.2 mins [SD, 2.1-4.5 mins]; both P ≤ 0.008). Supraclavicular blocks resulted in a higher rate of Horner syndrome (37.5% vs 0%-5%; both P < 0.001).

Conclusion: Adjunctive ultrasonography results in similar success rates, total anesthesia-related times, and block-related pain scores for the SCB, ICB, and AXB.

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  • None of the authors received funding for this study.

  • Partial results of this study have been presented at the 33rd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Regional Anesthesia (2008) and the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society.