This qualitative systematic review summarizes existing evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing ultrasound (US) to alternative techniques for lower extremity peripheral nerve block. There were 11 RCTs of sufficient quality for inclusion. Jadad scores ranged from 1 to 4 with a median of 3. For femoral nerve blocks, US provided shorter onset and improved quality of sensory and motor block, as well as a decrease in local anesthetic requirements. For sciatic nerve blocks, US resulted in a higher percentage of patients with complete sensory and motor block, as well as decreased local anesthetic requirements. In 2 of the studies for sciatic nerve block, US resulted in a shorter time to successfully complete the procedure. No study was powered to detect a difference in surgical block success. Overall, there was significant heterogeneity in the definitions of successful sensory and motor block. In 2 studies, the optimal peripheral nerve stimulation technique may have not been used, resulting in a potential bias. No RCT reported US as inferior to alternative techniques in any outcome. There is level Ib evidence to make a grade A recommendation that US guidance provides improvements in onset and success of sensory block, a decrease in local anesthetic requirements, and decreased time to perform lower extremity peripheral nerve blocks.
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